September 20, 2011

Agile Education

So, I work mostly with computers and application development. One of the big movements or trends these days is called Agile Development. It is a methodology for creating regular incremental iterations (of 1-4 weeks, usually) of software that is highly responsive to customer needs and developed by self forming teams. To really learn more about it, a good place to start is Wikipedia.

Interestingly, my educational background is in educational psychology, dealing mostly with ways and methods that people learn and what works best. In thinking about education in the last month or so, I came up with the idea of Agile Education. Well, turns out that it isn't totally original, but the one presentation I found on the web tried to copy the Agile Manifesto and only change the word software to education. Well, I can tell you, that education isn't developed. At least not in the way software is. The idea in the presentation is a good start, but certainly didn't go far enough into a methodology and system for education that really will help people learn better.

The basics of the full idea that I had uses an iterative approach to identifying scaffolding and ZPD's, but not just a first tier ZPD, but second tier, and related foundational ZPD's required for future tiers. It allows the individuals to progress at their own speed, and at the same time work in cross cultural social situations through self forming teams. The teachers in such a system, would be more in the role of student external advocate combined with scrum master and coach. Learning is a self driven activity, even when the motivations are external, so the customer is the student themselves, but they often loose site of or fail to fully comprehend their own needs and educational situation.

Anyway, there is no way I could really give such a big idea adequate justice in a simple blog post, or even a presentation for that matter. I think I will have to start writing a book on it. Maybe. It is a great idea. I just don't know if I have the time.

September 19, 2011

The Logic of Religion

I have been thinking about what people believe religiously and how logic fits or doesn't fit. Now, I know, there are some of you folks out there who swear there is no connection between logic and religion, but atheists and fanatics aside, how does logic fit with our religious beliefs?

First, I guess you have to decide if you believe there is a God. There isn't a lot of hard evidence one way or another (Well, actually, there is, but you have to dig and spend a lot of time working to understand the meanings and possibilities and ramifications. You have to be open to any possibility before you can effectively use Occam's razor anyway, otherwise, you bias the outcome.). Atheists will say a lack of evidence indicates lack of existence, and a lot of other people will say faith doesn't need evidence. Whatever you believe, still, I think the application of logic can only be helpful.

Second, assuming you decide you believe in a God, you need to decide what are the characteristics of that God. What would that God's motives be, and are they consistent with the commandments and teachings he has sent forth (Again, assuming you believe he has sent some forth. If you think there is a God who doesn't get involved or doesn't care, well, then you have a lot less to go on, but, if you remember the evidences I mentioned above... lets just say He has send forth both commandments and teachings.)

One thing to consider is the consistency of teachings and doctrines professed by a variety of religions. I am going to mainly focus on Christianity today. Lets say you are part of the Catholic Church. They say God is loving, just, and all powerful, but if you are not baptized in the Catholic Church, you get to spend eternity in Hell. What about those who have never heard of Christ, or that never heard the Catholic version. Well, too bad, you lost the genetic lottery and you get to go to Hell without being able to do anything else about it. A God that arbitrarily sends a major portion of his Children to hell just because of where they were born doesn't sound loving or just. OK, so, sorry Catholics, you fail the logic test. Unfortunately, many Christian churches have the exactly the same problem.

Here is another one. Lets say you belong to a christian church that doesn't have this problem because you say that everyone gets saved. There are no requirements. Ok, so what the heck is the point of your church in the first place if I don't have to do anything to get to heaven. Another Fail.

OK, lets look at the whole concept of heaven. Many Christian churches, and Jewish, and Muslim for that matter, have this outlook that if we do what is required here, we get to go to heaven and be happy forever with nothing to do, except sing in a heavenly choir (the Muslims get their 72 virgins, but I am not sure how they reconcile the lust involved with their other teachings, not to mention the denigration of females that is required). Now I like to sing. I even met my wife in a choir. But I don't think I want to spend eternity just singing. But, I have heard some say that is all there is. God just wants this one big choir singing his praises forever more. Man, that sounds vain. Now, don't get me wrong. God is beyond great, and should be praised, but not because he can send me to hell forever, but because he is perfect and loving and not selfish. The personal choir praising just himself forever sounds pretty selfish. There has to be more to it. Otherwise, this one doesn't do all that well on the logic test either.

So, now you see what the logic test is in religion. Go ahead. Try it. See if your church or religion measures up. Just keep in mind, everything must be included. The personality of God, his teachings, his commandments, who we are, who we can become, what the outcomes for us are, why we are here, etc. I personally think the church I belong to passes this test on all counts. It does say that it is the only true church. If that is the case, well, then everyone else has to be wrong. But, that doesn't make it fail the logic test. Go ahead. take the test, write it down, and see if what you find is what you expected.

July 7, 2011

What to do when a whole state goes traitor.

I recently read news reports about the Eugene Oregon city council voting against the Pledge of Allegiance. My first reaction was, if they do not support the country they live in, perhaps they should not be allowed to stay. Then, there has been a lot of news about gay marriage and ongoing efforts to remove God from our society in various regions of the country. These things led me to think about what our country is and what our government is based on. I finally read a chapter in the Book of Mormon this morning about those who would not support the cause of freedom were put to death. I realized the problem, and the solution (it doesn't involve killing).

I believe the Americas are a special place. I believe God made them that way. The Book of Mormon tells us that if any nation upon this land were to choose iniquity, that when it is fully ripe, it would be destroyed. I believe God inspired our constitution, and that this is a fundamentally Christian Nation. If we choose to worship anything else than God and His Son, we are becoming fully ripe. Of course, there are those who say they don't worship anything, but what they really mean is they worship themselves.

I see our current problem as certain regions doing their best to become fully ripe in iniquity. All they have to do is get rid of the few remaining good and righteous people who live there, and zap, or boom, or something, and they will be destroyed. The problem is that they are so tied to us. There are certain states dragging down the rest. The worst offenders are in New England. The West Coast is almost as bad. Perhaps we should start by kicking those states out of the Union. New England already has it's own name. We just draw a line at the Hudson River, and everything east of it is out of the country. They can have their own country. They can even have their own bastardized version of the Constitution, that won't plague us anymore. 

As for California, well, they have wanted to be their own country since before they were part of this country. Time to let them. And Oregon, and maybe Washington, they can go with them. Hawaii should never have been overthrown, and it should be it's own country again too. As for Alaska, well, we paid for it, but I figure it is up to Alaskans if they want to stay.

How would all this happen. Well, all the states could have referendums that if enough states passed it, could allow some states to vote to leave the Union. Yeah, I know, pretty soon you have 50 independent countries. Well, probably not. Can you picture Delaware or Rhode Island trying to operate independently as their own countries?

Well, perhaps we need some sort of movement to approve succession of states or regions. At the very least some formal process of succession. I know that the whole civil war was about succession, but really, did it solve that much. It created a hundred years of hostility and anger, not to mention poverty. It did end slavery, but I think that might have been ended anyway, after time and economic pressure. What the civil war really did was strip states of sovereignty. Prior to the civil war, both the states, and the nation were sovereign. Not anymore. I think it is time to give the states back their sovereignty. Time to give them the right to succeed. While we are at it, lets kick the bad news states in New England and the West Coast out of the Union so that we can preserve the Union. After all, "If your right hand should offend you, cut it off. Better to lose a hand then be dragged soul and body into hell."

May 10, 2011

The Rebirth of Feudalism

Yesterday, I was talking with my dad, and he was complaining about the economy and how the rich and the mega corps keep getting bigger while hurting everybody else. He talked about some statistic (that I have no idea where it comes from) that 60% of the used real estate purchases are now done with cash. It is the rich buying up the world, and making the little guys pay for it. He made the comment that soon the only thing that would be an option for the little guy is a small dive and a dead end job.

I thought about how, if everything is owned by a very small elite group, and there is no social mobility, and that we are basically locked into doing things they way the big guys dictate, that is very similar to what happened at the end of the Roman Empire and at the start of the Dark Ages. In fact, that was the condition that perpetuated the dark ages for so long. What really broke the back (and the repression) of the dark ages was the discovery of the new world. There was frontier where those who wanted an out could go. And what did they do with it. They built America and the United States.

We don't have any more frontier. There is no way to end a new dark ages if it happens, and it seems there are many forces in power that are intent on seeing that it happens. If we don't stop it before it gets too far, the only way to end it is the kind of war that kills 99% or more of the population and destroys all the environment. We could stop it now. They way to do so is to tax wealth instead of income; to break up the monopolies and massive corporations, and prevent the buildup of super powerful political, economic, and social elites; and to give people the freedom and opportunities to do as they please without having to pay the living life tolls that the big corporations have established for us.

April 29, 2011

Freedom, Democracy, Capitalism, Religion, and where the world is going

I read 3 articles in the a while back, that really got me to thinking about where we are, and where we are going as a country, as a world, and as humanity. I started a blog post about them, but then life happened. Now I am finishing the post. These articles, while all different, all talk about related subjects, and taken together, perhaps say more than they do individually.

These articles are Democracy, Prosperity, and Religion by Clayton M. Christensen, The Rise of the Hans by Joel Kotkin, and Dependence Day by Mark Steyn.

The first take-away I got from these articles are about the nature of the rise of America and our modern civilization. Something happened in Europe in the late middle ages, which led to the Renaissance, and ultimately to the rise of the English empire. I believe that something was related to the printing press, but also to the translation of the Bible and the rise of the protestant churches. People really believed. The choose to be good and expected everyone else to be good at the same time. Their definition of good was based on the understanding of right and wrong as defined in the Bible. Part of that understanding led to the concept of God given and unalienable rights. This led to the philosophies that built up and strengthened the rise of the United States of America.

These traditions of life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness, as well as all the other rights that are so often claimed by much of the world, but most especially those who live in the Anglosphere, are a direct result of these happenings. Somehow, with the creation of the Magna Carta and the split off of the Church of England, the attitudes and expectations of rights and freedoms became ingrained in the mindset of the populace. When England refused to extend these same rights and freedoms to the colonies, that led to the American Revolution. Of course, the US Bill of Rights was vital in formalizing these rights.

At the time of the revolution, and in the several decades that followed, there was a major resurgence in religiosity in America. Not everyone participated, but it was the general trend. People did what was right because it was right. In Great Britain and its colonies, they soon afterward followed with the Victorian Era with a heightened sense of propriety.

The resulting heightened moral norms had a very strong effect on the strengthening of both democracy and capitalism. Since those in industry and society were expected to be good, and there was significant social consequences for failure to meet these heightened norms, even those without authentic belief generally did what they could to conform.

Over time, there were those without that sincere belief that learned they could have their cake and eat it too. These individuals found a place in the rise of American Industrialization. Opponents of organized religion also have targeted the values that were espoused. The principles that were only enforceable by self restraint became things to be avoided by many. While still, America is the most religious of the modern developed world, those who are actively religious are only around 50%. Dishonesty and underhandedness are no longer justification for social rejection, but expected behavior.

Our current trajectory is a society that is slowly, but systematically, tearing itself apart. It does it culturally, spiritually, economically, politically, and economically. I don't know what we might employ to stop this trend. Perhaps the consequences of our society's actions and choices are inevitable at this point. Some might say they are the judgments of God. I believe that God set this world up so that consequences can be delayed, and even avoided with adequate course correction, but otherwise, they will come. His judgments are often self inflicted by the recipients.

What will the result be? Well, once society gets to the point that force and inertia are the only things holding it together, it is short hop to either totalitarianism or anarchy. If force wins out, it is totalitarianism, but if the inertia of our corrupted behavior wins out, it becomes a anarchic battle to the finish. Neither option sounds very appealing to me. I just don't know what we can do to alter the outcome at this point. So, what about it? Are we too far gone as a society to be saved?

April 26, 2011

Conservative politics - big business capitalism = ?

With all this federal shutdown garbage and now the debt limit crisis and the completely unreasonable and unmoving positions of our elected representatives in our federal government, and in state governments across the country, I have been doing a lot of thinking. I totally agree with the whole fiscal conservatism thing, living beneath our means, paying off the debt, and limiting government... to a point. I completely disagree with subsidies of any kind, apart from the prebate in the FairTax. That should be the primary equalizer our government provides. Oh, and the prebate should be twice as big as in HR 25, and education should be fully taxed, and investment should be taxed on the public exchanges. Well, it should be taxed any time it is required to be registered with any public agency, whether publicly traded or not. I also think we should be transitioning away from Social Security and Medicare and the other social programs.

But, and here is where I part from the traditional cut and slash crowd, I think turning any of this over to big business is a huge mistake. Big companies should be automatically excluded from government contracts and prohibited from buying out smaller companies. Too big to fail is too big to be allowed. We need another round of trust busting, and it should hit any company with revenues over a billion, which means a lot of them. Ok, yeah, some companies by their natures will be bigger than that, only have1 product, and make tons on that 1 product. Great, they need to stick with that 1 product. Companies exist to provide service to the greater good, not for enriching the pockets of investors. I know, sounds really like I am off my rocker. I am all in favor of small business. With this caveat: Businesses of all levels need to be responsible contributors to society and provide solid and fair jobs for their employees. Wages should represent contributions of effort and skill. This whole executive pay garbage where they are making millions and tens of millions, and even sometimes hundreds of millions of dollars, all while paying employees less than subsistence level wages is criminal. And should be treated as such.

Businesses of all level should be highly regulated. Not burdened, but regulated in a way to keep the playing field level and make sure they are being good citizens. I feel that most of our current regulation is either ineffective, or misdirected. Corporations, well, all registered businesses for that matter, should have to regularly report on their activities. Maybe if they cannot show they are being good corporate citizens, then they could be entered into receivership, and possibly dissolved and the liquidated assets distributed to creditors and shareholders. The only question is, how do you keep the regulatory environment from being a bully, and limit interventions to only the truly problem companies?

So, as you can see, conservative politics minus big business capitalism equals ... what? I don't know. Maybe the regulation I dreamed up here as I typed is a bad idea. But, would it be any worse than becoming economic slaves to the Fortune 500?