Every weekday morning, from September through June, parents across the country get up earlier than they want to, rush like crazy, wrangle kids into appropriate clothing, and wait in exhausting drop-off lines to get their children to school on time. Why? Because punctuality is a virtue? Or because they are afraid of getting in trouble?
In big cities and small communities, the same routine is repeated with minor variations. Small children and near adult adolescents will spend the majority of their waking hours somewhere they would rather not be. But few people question the set-up. Parents send their kids to school with the best of intentions, wanting to produce happy, healthy, productive adults. Public school is supposed to be for their own good. Very few question its necessity and virtue. No one questions the fact that our country’s public schools are looking less and less like places of learning and more and more like places of detention (and I don’t mean The Breakfast Club type either).
When you stop and think about it (which few people actually do), our public schools have more in common with our prison system than any parent would care to admit. Most of us are products of the system and will defend its honor and integrity like sufferers of severe Stockholm Syndrome. So let me break it down into a list of glaring similarities that even those of us who went to public school can easily understand.
1. Both School and Prison Take Away Freedom. To get into prison, a person has to be convicted of a crime (although all of us know that prisons are full of people convicted of pretty bogus crimes… just stick with me). Children in school are only guilty of the crime of being children. Since school attendance is compulsory, children, much like criminal prisoners, don’t get to choose whether they get locked up for seven or more hours a day. They are forced to go to school by strict truancy laws until they are at least 16, at which point their youth has already been squandered inside constrictive cinder block walls.
2. Both School and Prison use Security as a Means of Control. Prisons and public schools both use metal detectors, surveillance cameras, police patrols, drug-sniffing dogs, and lock downs to create a facade of greater security. In most elementary schools, there is an emphasis on moving students from location to location in a rigidly ordered manner. The straight line of silent children walking with hands behind their backs look frighteningly like lines of prisoners. The strict codes of conduct used in the majority of schools, as well as the consistent use of handcuffs and pepper spray on unruly high school students, work together to condition young people to the cultural normalcy of over-policing.
Stay in line. Do as you’re told. Don’t make trouble. These are the messages we send to both our prisoners and our school children. But it’s okay. It’s for their own good.
3. Both Schools and Prisons Serve Undesirable Food. The cafeterias in public schools are scarily similar to prison cafeterias, often even sharing the same menus. Unappetizing, bland, processed meals with little nutritional value are the norm in both institutions. And bringing a lunch from home is banned in many school districts. Add in the armed security guards that patrol most public school lunch rooms and a casual observer might not be able to tell the difference.
4. Both Schools and Prisons Enforce Strict Dress Codes. Like prisons, some schools obligate their students to wear uniforms, limiting self-expression, and encouraging a herd mentality that makes control easier (for safety’s sake, of course). But even in schools without required uniforms, strict dress codes are generally in place. Failure to tuck in a shirt tail can land a student in detention. Donning a blouse that doesn’t adequately cover a girl’s shoulders could get her sent home. Sometimes the dress code guidelines are so arbitrary and so strictly detailed, it seems like they are in place just to get students in trouble. In 2008, Gonzales High School in Texas made the national news for requiring dress code violators to wear actual prison jumpsuits. It’s like officials want the students to seem like criminals. Perhaps it makes the policing of students at their own hands seem more justified.
5. Both Students and Prisoners are Tracked. Many prisons use electronic bracelets or other tracking devices to keep track of prisoners’ locations. Many schools are doing the same thing. ID badges with built-in RFID chips can track the location of a child wherever they are wearing it, and many schools require ID badges to be worn during school hours. Some schools have even started using fingerprints and iris scanners to keep track of their prisoners… I mean students.
6. Both Schools and Prisons Have Armed Guards. Often referred to as SROs (school resource officers), most school buildings are patrolled by armed police officers. They are generally uniformed and carry pepper spray, tasers, and batons that they can use on students should the need arise. These officers police hallways and lunchrooms, administer searches of children’s lockers and school bags, and man the TSA-style checkpoints at the entrances to the buildings our children enter to learn.
7. Both Schools And Prisons do not Allow Anger. Although anger is a justifiable emotion toward constrictive and oppressive political structures, neither students nor prisoners have the power to express their emotions. In prison, angry convicts are locked away in solitary confinement, their movements and small remaining freedoms restricted for safety’s sake. In public school, anger is interpreted as a failing of the individual rather than the system that creates it. There, anger is seen as “disruptive behavior” or “cognitive impairment” or a “social or learning disability”. Often the angry student is marginalized by placement in special education classes, enrolled in “alternative schools”, or medicated to control their disruptions, all of which are just differing forms of confinement.
8. Both Students and Prisoners are Forced to Work. The scene of the prison chain gang in striped clothing, hacking away at rocks and debris is one that most people have seen in old films. Today’s prisoner work force looks a little different, with prisoners wearing orange jumpsuits and doing highway clean-up minus the bulky steel chains. Students are often forced to work, too. Sometimes they are forced to work cleaning up school grounds as a disciplinary action. But in some school systems, volunteer work or “community service” is required each year for a passing grade. Interesting to note that “community service” is frequently doled out as punishment to citizens convicted of minor crimes, but our children are only guilty of being kids.
9. Both Schools and Prisons Follow Strict Schedules. A rigid schedule of walking, eating, learning, exercise, and bathroom use is followed in both institutions. It doesn’t matter when you have to pee, or need to stretch your legs, or want a breath of fresh air. Those things can only be done during allotted times defined by those in authority.
10. Both Schools and Prisons Have Zero-Tolerance Policies. Most public schools now have policies of zero-tolerance when it comes to violence, bullying, drug possession, etc. Interestingly, much of the verbiage in our schools’ disciplinary policies come straight from the nation’s “War on Drugs” (which is directly responsible for the vast majority of our country’s prisoners). Zero-tolerance policies require harsher penalties for sometimes minor classroom offenses and often result in law enforcement being called in to handle school disciplinary actions. The result has been what many refer to as the “School-to-prison pipeline”. The policies make criminals out of students, pushing kids out of the classroom and into the criminal justice system at alarming rates. At least the transition will be easy. Those school children have already spent the majority of their lives in a system that matches the penitentiary where they’ll be spending most of the rest of it.
With such dark and intimidating surroundings, focusing on learning becomes difficult. It’s no wonder most kids don’t want to go to school. When you’re treated like a prisoner, it’s easy to feel like one.
UN Chief Calls for Global Ceasefire Amid “Absolutely Devastating” Pandemic
(TMU) — The head of the United Nations has issued a passionate appeal for a global ceasefire to take effect across the world that would give authorities and medical professionals alike the ability to focus exclusively on defeating the coronavirus pandemic.
In the appeal issued on Monday, U.N. Secretary-General Antonio Guterres demanded that the global truce be adopted for the sake of defeating the threat of CoViD-19 to all of humankind and especially the vulnerable—women and children, the disabled, marginalized, displaced and refugees.
In his address, which was delivered to reporters via live video feed in consideration of social distancing guidelines, Guterres said:
“The fury of the virus illustrates the folly of war.
That is why today, I am calling for an immediate global ceasefire in all corners of the world. It is time to put armed conflict on lockdown and focus together on the true fight of our lives.”
The comments come as Syria reported its very first confirmed case of CoViD-19, signaling an ugly turn for a country already ripped apart after a decade of war, while other cases continue to emerge in military flashpoints like Afghanistan, the Gaza Strip, and the Democratic Republic of Congo.
The U.N. chief stressed that the coronavirus doesn’t discriminate on a basis of “nationality or ethnicity, faction or faith.” Instead, “it attacks all, relentlessly.” However, the most vulnerable—those in war zones—would likely face “devastating losses” from the disease due to being caught between a war and a devastating pandemic.
Additionally, those health systems in countries devastated by war have already been either destroyed or reached the verge of total collapse, ensuring that those health workers brave enough to venture into the field are often placed directly in the line of fire or into the crosshairs of warring parties.
Addressing warfighters across the globe, Guterres said:
“Pull back from hostilities. Put aside mistrust and animosity. Silence the guns; stop the artillery; end the airstrikes.
This is crucial… To help create corridors for life-saving aid. To open precious windows for diplomacy. To bring hope to places among the most vulnerable to COVID-19.”
To warring parties: Pull back from hostilities. Silence the guns; stop the artillery; end the airstrikes.
This is crucial to help create corridors for life-saving aid, open windows for diplomacy & bring hope to places among the most vulnerable to #COVID19 – @antonioguterres
— UN Spokesperson (@UN_Spokesperson) March 23, 2020
Continuing, he stressed:
“End the sickness of war and fight the disease that is ravaging our world. It starts by stopping the fighting everywhere. Now. That is what our human family needs, now more than ever.
… If the fighting goes on, we might have an absolutely devastating spreading of the epidemic.”
The U.N. secretary-general has been calling for a global response to the pandemic which he has said places the lives of “millions at risk.” The United Nations will soon unveil a detailed humanitarian relief plan that would be worldwide in scope.
During a question-and-answer session with reporters at the “virtual” press conference, Guterres expressed that he felt “strongly determined” to make the most of the U.N.’s mandate despite the organization’s existing duties in the humanitarian, peacekeeping, diplomatic, cultural, and other fields.
“It’s a moment in which the U.N. must be able to address the peoples of the world and appeal for a massive mobilization and for a massive pressure on governments to make sure that we are able to respond to this crisis, not to mitigate it but to suppress it, to suppress the disease and to address the dramatic economic and social impacts of the disease.
And we can only do it if we do it together, if we do in a coordinated way, if we do it with intense solidarity and cooperation, and that is the raison d’etre of the United Nations itself.”
The Battle Against Bewitchment: Upsetting Settled Minds
(TMU) Op-Ed — Comfort zones are a curious thing. So warm and secure. So safe and reassuring. So satisfying and certain. Beliefs have a similar effect on us. Especially the core beliefs that we take for granted. But beliefs are comfort zones with reinforced invulnerability; or, at least, the illusion of it. Such reinforcements are like prison bars that most of us are not even aware of. We’re so completely indoctrinated, so utterly pre-programmed, that we don’t even know that we don’t know that we’ve been conditioned to blindly believe in something simply because enough people convinced us it was true.
The problem with reinforced comfort zones is that there is no growth. A regular comfort zone, you can stretch. A reinforced comfort zone, you’re usually not even aware it needs to be stretched. A regular comfort zone allows for trial and error, it allows for questioning, and so there is at least potential for self-improvement and self-overcoming. But a reinforced comfort zone does not allow for trial and error. It doesn’t allow for “blasphemous” questioning, because it is taken for granted as already perfect or “simply the way it is.” Regular comfort zones can be healthy, giving us a safe haven, a place where we can heal and lick our wounds. But reinforced comfort zones are unnecessary safety nets based upon fear (of God, the Unknown, Death) placation, and self-pity. It’s a place where cognitive dissonance rules and any notion of attempting to think outside the box is met with: You simply need to have faith in the “box”.
The Battle Against Bewitchment:
Philosophy is a battle against the bewitchment of our intelligence by means of language.” –Ludwig Wittgenstein
Self-Inflicted Philosophy is at the forefront of the battle against bewitchment. Self-inflicted philosophy is about upsetting settled minds. It’s about toppling the reinforced comfort zones of blind belief. It’s about flattening the “box” that everyone talks a big game about thinking outside of but when it really comes down to it, they cling to the “box” out of fear of the unknown or out of faith in what they believe they know.
Foremost, self-inflicted philosophy is about questioning the self to the nth degree through self-interrogation. But you can only get so far in such questioning before you are met with the reinforced comfort zone of a blind belief. So, self-inflicted philosophy is also about questioning the layer-upon-layer of cultural, political, and religious indoctrination that led to that reinforced comfort zone to begin with.
When you don the cloak of a self-inflicted philosopher, no belief, no matter how true it may seem, is off the hook for being questioned with ruthless skepticism and unwavering circumspection. In the battle against bewitchment, the destruction of a belief, no matter how powerful, is mere collateral damage to the Occam’s razor of universal truth. Hell, even “universal truth” is not beyond questioning.
When you don the cloak of a self-inflicted philosopher, the concept of belief is nixed from your interpretation of the universe. There is no place for belief here, only thought, only deep inquiry, only imaginative curiosity. You replace all usage of “belief” or “believe” with “thought” or “think”. You don’t believe that you certainly exist: you “think” that you “probably” exist. But you could be wrong. So you remain circumspect, for even your interpretation of your own existence could be an illusion, no matter how “true” it may feel.
There will be those who will say, “You are merely believing that you don’t believe.” But that is patently false, because you are not “believing” in non-belief, you are “thinking/inquiring/imagining” through non-belief, with the understanding, the flexibility that your thinking “could” be wrong. And that’s the rub: it is much easier to alter a thought than a belief. It is almost impossible to alter a belief. You are more likely to question a thought than you are a belief. And so, rather than get trapped in a reinforced comfort zone, you stay ahead of the curve by thinking rather than believing, and then by questioning what you think so that you don’t accidentally begin to believe it.
In the spirit of upsetting settled minds, you don’t “believe” in having an unsettled mind, you “think” that having an unsettled mind is more productive, more progressive, and more open-minded than having a settled mind (an unquestioning belief). You realize that belief in general is counterproductive, because you understand that the human mind is a delusion-generator rather than a truth-generator. It pumps out delusions like a spider pumps out webs. But, unlike the spider it tends to get caught in them. Thereby, you understand that the only window to truth is through a questioning, circumspect, and a skeptical mindset, not through an unquestioning, dogmatic, and certain mindset.
The only solution to a delusion-generator is a question-generator. Luckily, the human brain is both. As a self-inflicted philosopher, you don’t believe that this is certainly true; rather, you think that this is probably true. And you’re willing to question everything to “prove” it. Indeed, you’ve transformed Descartes’ “I think therefore I am” into I think, therefore I question.
Tapping into the question-generator
“It is far better to grasp the universe as it really is than to persist in delusion, however satisfying and reassuring.” –Carl Sagan
The problem with the human brain is that is never knows when it has been duped by a delusion, so it is almost always better to not believe anything just in case it’s a delusion. A kind of reverse Pascal’s Wager. It’s almost always better to, as Aristotle suggested, “entertain a thought without accepting it.” Just take it all into consideration and let it pass through the sieve of probability. Then, whatever doesn’t insult your soul, think about it, dissect it, inquire about it. Be curious about it. Just don’t make the mistake of believing it.
You are more likely to grasp the universe “as it really is” by questioning it than by believing it. You don’t believe the universe is certainly a certain way; rather, you think the universe may be a certain way, but you’re willing to question further so as to get you closer to the way the universe “really is”. If you cling to a particular belief of how the universe is, then you block yourself from ever getting closer to the universe “as it really is.” Better to simply not have a belief in the first place. Better to simply think and keep the motor running on the question-generator so as to keep the delusion-generator in check.
The opposite of belief is neither disbelief nor doubt, but clarity of a thought. Without beliefs reinforcing the comfort zone, you are liberated to stretch it. You are clear enough to think outside it, you are courageous enough to question it. When the reinforcements fall away, the comfort zone becomes a sacred rather than stagnant place. It is free to grow through self-improvement rather than remain stuck in self-reassurance. Indeed, without beliefs cluttering the mindset, you’re finally able to drop the “set” and move into “mind.”
Free of the “mindset” of a settled mind, you move into the mindfulness of a questioning mind. You become a walking, talking, question-generator, able to consistently counter-balance the delusion-generator of the human condition. You’re ahead of the curve, surfing Aslam’s Infinite Circle on the surfboard of Occam’s razor. In absolute awe over the beautiful unfolding of an ultimately unknowable universe. On the edge of your own curiosity, questioning all “answers” countering all beliefs, elusive of all delusions. You’re a self-inflicted philosopher, and not even God is safe from your ruthless inquiry.
We’re About to Find Life on Mars but the World is “Not Prepared,” NASA Scientist Warns
(TMU) — As we humble earthlings begin to learn more about the universe and potentially stand on the cusp of great discoveries about the planet Mars, we may not be prepared for what’s in store of us, warns the chief scientist of U.S. space agency NASA.
Dr. Jim Green believes that as two rovers from NASA and the European Space Agency (ESA) prepare to embark for Mars next summer, humanity could be overwhelmed by the implications of studies to come.
Speaking to the Telegraph, the director of NASA’s Planetary Science Division compared the potential discoveries to Rennaissance-era astronomer Nicolaus Copernicus’ theory that postulated that the Earth revolves around the Sun, rather than vice-versa.
The Copernican model, which is credited with revolutionizing science during the 16th century, earned him the condemnation of the Roman Catholic Church due to the model’s impact on the Church’s doctrines relating to astronomy.
“It will start a whole new line of thinking. I don’t think we’re prepared for the results.
I’ve been worried about that because I think we’re close to finding it and making some announcements.”
The ESA’s ExoMars Rover and NASA’s Mars 2020 are set to drill 6.5 feet into the Red Planet’s core to take samples in hopes of finding evidence of life on. The samples will be processed and examined in a mobile laboratory that will look for any traces of organic matter.
Green said that if scientists find biosignatures of life in Mars’ crust, a new era of astrobiology could begin.
“What happens next is a whole new set of scientific questions.
Is that life like us? How are we related?
Can life move from planet-to-planet or do we have a spark and just the right environment and that spark generates life – like us or not like us – based on the chemical environment that it is in?”
NASA’s Mars 2020 rover is set to launch next July before making the 140-million mile trek to Mars and landing on its Jezero Crater in February 2021.
With two high-definition cameras and a detachable helicopter drone, the rover is set to collect an unprecedented batch of visual data and images of the cavernous and cliffy terrain of Mars.
However, the primary mission of the rover is to find signs of life. Habitable environments and biosignatures left in rock are being sought so that samples can be studied back on earth.
The latest research has shown that many planets believed to have always been uninhabitable may have once enjoyed conditions suitable for sustaining life. Earlier this year, NASA’s InSight rover found evidence of a potentially vast global reservoir of water on Mars.
Dr. Green notes that research also suggests the existence of civilizations on other planets. He commented:
“There is no reason to think that there isn’t civilization elsewhere, because we are finding exoplanets [planets lying beyond the solar system] all over the place.”
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