The Oppressed… Majority??

Taxonomy

I’m a man, living in the USA, in 2018.

It seems like every day, the airwaves are filled with virtue-signaling politicians, “journalists,” feminists, social justice warriors, leftists, and “woke” men proclaiming that we live in a horribly sexist society.  Further, I’ve been told that simply because I’m male, I am part of the misogynistic patriarchy that perpetuates an ongoing, angry, testosterone-induced oppression of females of all ages at all levels.

Never mind that I have a mother, and a wife, and a daughter, all of whom are very intelligent, independent, and who openly profess to be very happy with not only their lives in general, but also with their respective relationships with me.  Never mind that throughout my professional life across multiple careers and industries I’ve reported up to more women than men, including two female CEOs and a female University Provost.

Despite outward appearances, all of these women are oppressed, and since I’m a man, I am allegedly the problem.

Simplicity

The USA is a representative republic, a government by the people, meaning the citizenry vote on practically all matters of importance either directly on majority-rule issues, or indirectly by electing representatives tasked with championing the electorate’s wishes.

According to the US Census Bureau, females represent:

  • 51% of the total population
  • 52% of eligible voters
  • 53% of registered voters
  • 54% of actual voters

There’s more!

According to the National Center for Education Studies, 56% of college students are female, leading to the majority of both Bachelor’s and Graduate degrees being awarded to women.  Given that, one could conclude that in general, women are clearly more educated.  In addition, according to the Harvard Business Review, women control 51.3% of the nation’s wealth, some $17 trillion.

Simply put, American women collectively have more votes, more education, and more money than American men.

As such, it could be argued that American women have it entirely within their united feminine power to control everything!  Together, women can pass or defeat any balloted measure or legislated initiative, they can enact or repeal laws, and they can elect or defeat any candidate.

But evidently the fact that they don’t is somehow my fault?  Perhaps someone could share with me the recent photos or video of men blocking women from voting, and/or preventing women from declaring candidacy for elected office.

Reality

In a market-based economy rife with opportunity, there will always be those who have it easier than others, and those who have it more difficult than others.  Over the course of time, most people will experience both sides of this as they navigate through evolving circumstances, because anyone seeking to accomplish anything of significance typically faces challenges.  It’s not oppression, it’s life.  Often times, our greatest sense of accomplishment comes from overcoming difficult challenges, regardless of how or why those challenges came to be.

That being said, if you are of the opinion that American females are horribly oppressed, facing countless, unfair, male-generated obstacles impacting all aspects of their dreadfully problematical lives, then perhaps a not-so-subtle reminder is in order:  “Uh… Ladies?  I know we’re just males, but we (at least most of us) can count, and clearly you have the means by which to be in charge.”

However, if you choose to reject that premise, well then, you can always just point in my general direction and announce “This is terrible, and I think it’s all his fault!!

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Our United States of America

The United States of America.  Our country, our Republic… our home.

This map was created in November 2016, and anyone paying even a marginal degree of attention to the political news has seen it dozens of times.  It represents County-level results from the 2016 U.S. presidential election, and has probably been the source of more misinformation and misinterpretation than perhaps any map in history.

For the record, we are a Nation of about 3.8 million square miles, the red covers 3.3 million (87%), the blue 500,000 (13%).

Frankly I’ve grown weary of too many ideologues shouting and spitting at me what the map really means, and I’m sick and tired of being told that I’m what’s wrong with America because I’m a white male lawful citizen living in a red county.  According to many celebrities, most of the media, and pretty much all of the Left, 87% of the country is populated by people who are racist, uneducated, sexist, xenophobic, selfish and uncaring.

EXCEPT THAT…

Racist?

We are a Nation that elected President Barack Obama, twice, and each time he received more than 51% of the popular vote, and more than 61% of the Electoral vote.  WE are a Nation where, according to the US Census, Black average household income in 2015 was $49,629, and according to The Brookings Institution, in 124 majority-black cities, black families’ income was higher than the national median household income for all races.

Uneducated?

WE ARE a Nation where, according to the US Census, 88% of adults have graduated high school, 59% have attended college, 33% have earned undergraduate degrees, and 12% have earned advanced degrees.

Sexist?

WE ARE A Nation where, according to the National Center for Education Studies, 56% of college students are female, leading to the majority of both Bachelor’s and Graduate degrees being awarded to women.  In addition, according to the Harvard Business Review, women control 51.3% of the wealth, amounting to about $17 trillion.

Xenophobic?

WE ARE A NATION that, according to the US Census and Pew Research, shows the following demographic percentage of population changes from 2010 to 2015:

    Group       2010    2015     Change
–  White        64%   62%      -2%
–  Black          13%    14%       +1%
–  Latino        16%    18%      +2%
–  Asian           5%      6%       +1%
–  Muslim      .9%      1%      +.1%

Selfish and Uncaring?

WE ARE A NATION THAT in 2015, according to Giving USA’s Annual Report on Philanthropy, contributed $373,250,000,000 to charity…, $373 Billion! On average, that’s $1,166 from every single US citizen…, every man, every woman, and every child.

Considering this data from legitimate sources, I argue that the USA is not racist, uneducated, sexist, xenophobic, selfish and uncaring, for if those characterizations were true, none of the things mentioned above could have occurred or be occurring.

Fellow Americans, brothers and sisters, please, set aside the inflammatory emotions for just a moment and reflect upon the actual data.  Though we are certainly not without problems, people from all over the world go to great effort to come here.  As a Nation, we are tolerant, inclusive, educated and benevolent.  Those inherent values have helped us to build one of the, if not the, greatest civilizations in the history of humanity.  Despite what those who seek to divide us say about that map, THAT is who we really are.

Hobby Lobby

Love ‘em or hate ‘em, but at least do so based upon sound reasoning.

 

Coming To a Town Near You

It was recently announced that retailer Hobby Lobby is building a store in Traverse City.

Within seconds of that announcement came the negative comments regarding Hobby Lobby’s right to exist, and Traverse City’s despicable choice of allowing Hobby Lobby to set up shop.  There were repeated indignant declarations of refusing to shop at Hobby Lobby due to things like religion, women’s rights, and reproductive freedom.  However, as the day went on, the positive comments and welcoming statements began to outweigh the negative.

All of this is of no surprise, and is actually one of the beautiful things about a free-market capitalist system.

In the interest of complete transparency, I don’t shop at Hobby Lobby.  I’m just not a bolted fabric, faux flowers, macramé and vases kinda guy, and I simply cannot get excited about a sale on miniature garden gnomes.  Give me a bike shop, a home-improvement center or a music store any day.  But I digress – back to my original purpose.  To the fervently indignant folks who choose to publically “take a stand;” at the very least, let’s all be crystal clear (and hopefully reasonable) about why we do what we do.

The “Issue(s)”

In response to one man’s expressed appreciation that Hobby Lobby was run by Christian people, one woman wrote: “Except most Christians are asshats I’d rather not be around.”  Of note – the US Census reports that over 75% of Americans identify themselves as Christians.  Therefore, by her own admission this woman thinks that at least 38% of Americans are asshats.  That seems a bit overly condemnatory.

Another woman wrote: “I definitely won’t be shopping at Hobby Lobby due to the owner’s policies toward women and health care.”  I think it’s safe to presume that this is based (at least in part) upon Hobby Lobby’s very public position with respect to certain forms of contraception.

Pertinent Facts and Relevant Questions

For the record, the US FDA has approved 20 birth control methods, 16 to which Hobby Lobby has no objection, including the most effective and most commonly/widely-used methods.  Hobby Lobby’s employee health insurance plan pays for those 16 options because they believe doing so does not violate their US Constitutionally-protected religious freedoms.  In 2014, the US Supreme Court ruled in favor of Hobby Lobby’s position.  In addition, I think we can all agree that “health care” involves considerably more than just contraception, and I am unaware of any other aspects of common health care to which Hobby Lobby objects.

Hobby Lobby has a workforce of 34,000 people, 69% of whom are women.  Why would over 23,000 American women willingly choose to work at and support the mission of a company that is allegedly anti-woman?  Of equal importance, I think it is safe to say that the vast majority of Hobby Lobby customers are women, to the tune of more than $4 billion in revenue in 2017.  Again, if Hobby Lobby is so terrible, why would independent, free-thinking American woman give to Hobby Lobby $billions of their hard-earned income?

Take an Educated Stand

We are all encouraged to shop where we wish, just as we are free to be angry with whom we wish.  However, it is in our collective best interest to be rational and factually-driven in our reasoning, especially in this day and age of what seems to be an agenda-driven mainstream media offering spin from every direction.  We need to dig deeper to learn more, increasing our knowledge beyond that which is being reported by those with whom we are comfortable.  If we’re going to be part of the discussion, let’s at least be erudite in our passion.

Siblings Day 2018


Surprise!  Prior to a few hours ago, I’d never heard of Siblings Day.  However, upon learning of this, my first thought was the irony of the name: Siblings Day.

I have siblings.  Unfortunately I can’t make a qualitative description any stronger than that because lately our relationships have been…, let’s say less than ideal.

My wife Shari has two awesome Brothers.  In more ways than I can count I am blessed they have become a part of my life.  The three of them support each other unfailingly.  They talk with each other, laugh with each other, and cry with each other.  They kid and tease each other, and occasionally will team up two against one, recounting with great hilarity both embarrassing and ridiculous moments from days gone by.

However, they never raise their voices, must less their ire with each other, and while it’s evident they love each other, what’s even more clear is that they genuinely like each other.  Though they are dramatically different from one another, they are unified in spirit.  For their parents, they are a source of immense pride and happiness, and together the three of them are an absolutely formidable force.  Again, I am extremely fortunate they have come into my world, and welcomed me into theirs.

But back to my siblings and I…  Through the course of normal life, most families have to deal with a broad range of issues, challenges, failures and even tragedies.  Some manage to usually get it right, but I think they are the fortunate exceptions.  The more I read and learn, the more I realize that my siblings and I are probably pretty normal.  We’ve had our successes and failures, individually and collectively.  We have our pride, and our regrets.  Each of us has numerous achievements.  We want for little, we meet our needs, pursue our desires, and even manage to realize some of our dreams.

And yet, together we’ve only managed to achieve siblinghood, falling well short of brotherhood and sisterhood.

This probably makes us no different from millions of others.  I used to wonder, “How did we get to this point?”  But I’ve come to believe that question is not helpful, because depending upon whom is answering, there will be innumerable different answers, and probably even less agreement on the relative importance of any one answer.  No…, though we’re definitely lost, “How did we get here?” won’t help.  A much better question is “Do we want to fix it?”  Given our circumstances, our personalities, and a lifetime of interactions, this may actually be a much more difficult question to confront, much less answer, for any answer will spawn a long list of what could be even more difficult questions.

Life is hard.  In fact, I’ve heard psychiatrists and psychologists say life is suffering.  Perhaps.  I don’t believe that any significant amount of time in my life was spent suffering, especially when you see the kind of truly horrible suffering that takes place in other parts of the world, and even in the poverty- and crime-ridden parts of our country.  In our case, “life is complicated” is probably more apropos.  That being said, I think we have to concede that even our most fervent complications are nonetheless, First World complications.

My Mom would attest that each of her children are all very different from each other, which again, makes us more normal than not.  Sadly, we have allowed our differences, and perhaps our pride, to evolve into passionate disagreements, resulting in seemingly enormous barriers.  Though Shari and her brothers sometimes disagree, they refuse to let their disagreements rise to the level of divisive.  They too have passion, but that passion also fuels an ongoing quest for an abiding, respectful understanding of each other.  One outcome of today for me, is realizing that the real barriers that my siblings and I must overcome are not between us – rather, the real barriers are us.

According to some, the purpose of Siblings Day is to honor the relationships of siblings.  In the case of my wife and her brothers, “honor” is indeed spot-on.  Unfortunately, in my case, honorable would not be at all accurate in describing my sibling relationships.  However, in that I’ve spent a good portion of today thinking (positively) about my brother and sisters, then perhaps the day is somewhat of a success after all.

Or, at the very least, a beginning.

Christopher Columbus – An Historical Figure

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I think Columbus Day is legit, and should remain as-is. Sadly, on this day over the past few years I’ve read with great interest a number of pieces about Christopher Columbus. Until this year I had not read A SINGLE ONE that had anything good to say about him.  However, Michael J. Knowles of The Daily Wire has an excellent piece, replete with numerous historical citations: http://www.dailywire.com/news/21968/historical-record-shows-christopher-columbus-michael-j-knowles It is well-researched and worth the read. However, the rest of the Columbus “lessons” in the media are not so kind, and suffice to say are considerably more emotionally-charged than fact-based. Funny how that seems to be more and more the case when the media has an agenda.

The most mild characterization of Christopher Columbus was that he was “lost,” which in and of itself is interesting since he was sailing uncharted seas. The most severe likened him to Adolph Hitler.  Though I am not a Columbus defender, I am unaware of any historical evidence that points to him deliberately and systematically leading concerted efforts to exterminate an entire category of human beings.  I think it is at least fair to say that he was an adventurer, a risk-taker, an explorer, but in our culture those are typically positive attributes, and as a result nobody mentions them.

A recurrent theme promoted by most of the complicit media is that we should do away with Columbus Day.  There are also movements to change Columbus Day to Indigenous People’s Day.  Personally, if I were a member of the indigenous people race (provided of course we can agree on exactly WHO were the very first to get here, and also agree on just where “here” is), I would want an entirely different day.  Nobody wants a hand-me-down Holiday, anymore than they want hand-me-down underclothes.

So it would seem that every October for the foreseeable future, we are going to examine not only should we celebrate Columbus Day (if in fact taking a weekday break from personal banking and receiving mail qualifies as “celebrating”), but should we recognize or even have a Columbus Day.  Personally, I really don’t think the good citizens of Genoa, Italy care much either way.

However, at the risk of being regarded as, at the very least, politically incorrect, and at worst, culturally insensitive and even shamefully racist, I firmly believe that if we as a society do in fact choose to move in a direction to rid ourselves of any recognition of Columbus Day, then let’s be sure we examine ALL of the pertinent evidence in order to be historically thorough and honest.

While the “Indigenous” people were, in many respects very different from the people from Europe and elsewhere, they were also much like humans everywhere.  There is substantial and irrefutable historical evidence that tribes waged war upon each other.  They attacked strangers without warning, and often viewed any form of mercy with contempt.  They killed and enslaved those they believed to be lesser-than.  Warring tribes killed enemy tribes’ women and children.

In other words, in addition to embodying numerous admirable traits, they too were human, and not without their own set of behaviors that so many today decry as reprehensible and inexcusable.  Make no mistake, there was indeed a significant amount of despicable behavior and violence present on this continent long before the arrival of the “white man.”

There is almost always some value, and perhaps even on occasion, honor in recognizing all of the history and cultures that have been part of creating what we now all call home, provided we do so in an intellectually honest manner.  Virtually every culture has admirable traits which we all might benefit from embracing, just as all cultures have their less-than-desirable elements.  We can learn from each, embracing and discarding accordingly.  But let’s not embark on any initiative under the premise that ANY culture (Indigenous or otherwise) is entirely superior to any other, anymore than ANY culture (Columbus-era or otherwise) should be ignored or abandoned simply because it makes some of us “feel” better.

The Betsy DeVos Challenge

US Secretary of Education Elisabeth DeVos is NOT anti-public schools, she’s anti-FAILING schools, and so am I, and you should be too.

Regarding the nomination and confirmation of Secretary DeVos, during the past nine months I’ve read numerous quotes from incensed teachers, parents and students from across the country, including a huge dose of negativity from right here in Michigan.  Some of the strongest objections have come out of Flint, Detroit, Pontiac and Saginaw.  They all pretty much spit the same generalized talking point: that she is going to “destroy” Public Schools.  Quite frankly, the hard data would seem to indicate that in many places, the politicians, public school leaders and advocates have already done a fine job of destroying public education all by themselves.

Challenge 1:  To the anti-DeVos public education “advocates,” I challenge you to stop Secretary DeVos dead in her tracks by impressing her with your school’s success record.

Hard Data – What’s Not Working

The Michigan Department of Education maintains a database that displays each public school’s 2015-16 statewide percentile ranking based on measures of student achievement and student improvement.  Each school district is assigned a number on the scale of 0-99, with 99 being the highest relative performance and 0 being the lowest.  For the cities mentioned above, the numbers are sobering:

  • Detroit Public Schools      11th percentile
  • Flint Public Schools          8th percentile
  • Pontiac Public Schools     9th percentile
  • Saginaw Public Schools    9th percentile

By the way, these numbers have been relatively consistent for more than a decade, and in some cases two or three decades.  And please spare me any claim that the MDE database has clearly been hacked by the Russians.  Or the NSA, or Republicans, or the 1%, or a Nigerian prince.

Challenge 2:  Set aside the political ideology and quit echoing the ridiculous, divisive and deliberately misleading ATF, MEA and DNC talking points.

We’ve heard them ad nauseam: “She didn’t graduate from a public university!!”  “She clearly supports charter schools!!”  “She was never a teacher, she’s not even a degreed educator!!”

  • It is true that Secretary DeVos did not graduate from a public university (Calvin). Neither did either one of her predecessors, President Obama’s Secretaries of Education, Arne Duncan (Harvard) and John King (Harvard, Columbia, and Yale).
  • She does indeed support charter schools, as did both Duncan and King. John King spent part of his career as a Charter School Principal.
  • It’s also true that she is not an educator by trade or training, though neither were former Carter Secretary Shirley Hufstedler (lawyer, judge), Clinton Secretary Richard Riley (lawyer, politician), and again, Obama’s Arne Duncan (basketball player, sociologist).

If these traits are so objectionable, then why was there NO similar outcry about the Secretaries chosen by each of the most recent Democrat Presidents?

That being said, what’s especially interesting is the one talking point we’re not hearing, which also happens to be the only consistent aspect of all of the opposition to Betsy DeVos; nobody is claiming “Our public schools are doing a GREAT job!!”

It’s All About the Money, Or Is It?

The Organization for Economic Cooperation and Development involves (and studies) the world’s most developed countries for the purpose of stimulating economic progress and world trade.  The OECD has reported that US teachers are better paid (avg = $53k) than most of their counterparts elsewhere in the world (avg = $46k).  The average first year high school teacher in the US earns around $38k compared to OECD nations at $31k.

The US Department of Education, National Center for Education Statistics reports we spend about $12,300 per student, compared to the OECD average of $9,300.  The OECD reports that the US spends over 7% of its GDP on education, compared to an average of 6% in the other OECD countries.  So, we’re paying teachers more, spending more on the students, and spending a greater portion of what we have.  What exactly is all of that buying us?  The answer…, a lot less than one would hope.

The Programme for International Student Assessment (PISA) is a worldwide study that compares levels of scholastic performance in 72 developed nations.  In the 2015 PISA study, US students’ scores ranked them as follows:  Math – 39th, Science – 25th, Reading – 23rd.  Just how are US graduates going to fare in the global workplace when their critical skill levels aren’t even in the top 20?

Challenge 3:  Either admit that what’s been tried in many schools isn’t working, or roll out the data that shows it is.

What IS Working

I don’t know (and quite frankly, neither does anyone else) whether Secretary DeVos will be great for American schoolchildren (and their parents) or not.  But I do know two things:  First, that continuation of current practice or maintaining status quo in failing schools will NOT solve the problem, especially when many of the people directly involved refuse to even acknowledge – much less take responsibility for – the implications of the percentile rankings listed above.  Second, Secretary DeVos and her family have a long history of education advocacy and philanthropy, for both private and public schools, including those schools in and around her hometown:

  • Holland Public Schools           45th percentile
  • Hamilton Public Schools        66th percentile
  • Saugatuck Public Schools       87th percentile
  • West Ottawa Public Schools   74th percentile
  • Zeeland Public Schools           76th percentile

It would seem that if anyone had a legitimate complaint about public schools being “destroyed,” it would be the folks from those schools listed immediately above.  Yet, I’ve seen no concomitant outcry of concern from the teachers and parents of these schools.

I can hear my detractors already: “Of course they’re not worried, they’re doing great, she’s not going to destroy them!”  And the problem with that is…?  Shouldn’t schools that are underperforming indeed be the focus of efforts to revamp the current model and rebuild from the ground up?

Why Not

The real question for my hometown and our I-75 corridor neighbors north and south is, do you want public schools like those west of Grand Rapids, or not?  Because based upon many of the actions for the past 30 years, and especially the vehement objections since November 23rd, it sure seems like your answer is… not.

Challenge 4:  With all due respect, give Secretary DeVos a chance… you’ve had yours.

 

 

Why? This is Why

I’m often asked, usually by Shari, why do I do this?  Somedays I’m not sure myself, but I think it may be because for many years, though I felt as though I had something to say, I had not neither the skill, not the patience to say it well.  I’ve worked very hard to get better at that, and by your responses it would appear that I’m at least making some progress in that direction.

I’m about to post another article, and this one has more hard data (and sources) than usual.  I apologize, because I know that can be boring.  However, I’m once-again addressing an emotionally-charged topic (like so many others), and I believe we are all better served by dialing back emotions and simply examining available data.  We are living in a culture where lately, it seems that the more one “cares” about something, the more they feel compelled to render their “expert” opinion, and the less they are asked to produce genuine evidence in support of their position.

What we end up with are interactions between opposing sides that, while provocative and possibly “entertaining,” are increasingly less productive.  This fundamental change is pushing our society off into (at least) two dangerous directions: the first is that more and more, we substitute fear for reason, and second, people are abandoning thinking in favor of feeling because they are no longer challenged to discern the difference between the two.

We live in a great country, and I am both grateful and proud to be here.  And though we may disagree on whether it needs to be made great again, we should completely agree that we each have a responsibility to make it better (and greater) everyday.  I don’t want what’s best for me.  I want what’s best for US, me and my fellow citizens.

This is our country, and our President, and our Congress, our media, our Constitution, our culture, our environment…  we are in this together.  But if we continue to increasingly view those with whom we disagree with contempt, we will fail, horribly.  “My way or No way” is a collective death sentence.  I want the United States of America to be truly united, for US to collectively flourish and prosper, and each of these writings is part of my humble effort toward that outcome.