About Nature, Bill Gates, & Common Core

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Two girders show up in our explanations: One view is adamant – each of us is the outcome from an uncompromising environment. Further, differences between any two of us are irrelevant, accidental noise that must be suppressed if it cannot be ignored. The second view, equally stubborn, recognizes that every living organism chooses and modifies its environment. True for coral, worms, crickets, spiders, and your children. It is also more true for conservatives than for liberals. Parents raise a child but in ways chosen by the child and by the time that child is eight years old, eighty-five percent of his world consists of his choices. He or she may “hear” mother’s lectures but only believes some of them and, systematically changes his or her core beliefs at different stages of life. Such changes unfold from within the individual.

1)      Bill Gates, while a Harvard undergraduate, wrote software for a “Disk Operating System.” It became known as “DOS” and Bill took it with him when he left Harvard and went to Arizona to buy a Porsche and found Microsoft. Since he designed DOS with tools supplied by a federal grant, it can be argued that DOS was not his to take. Through luck and his competitor’s arrogance, IBM adopted DOS and paid Bill well. Bill, through cunning and quick wits designed a self-feeding, emergent system that could have been the uniform tool for making any computer run. Gates was, and is, an entrepreneur who now wants to install a “DOS” in every child. It’s called Common Core.

2)      Steve Jobs designed a different system, based on adapting the software to the users’ characteristics. iPhones, MACS, and Apps now allow any user to build a system that matches his or her unique preferences whether for his cell phone, Internet browser, games, or camera.

3)      Mr. Gates and his wife have contributed $200M to Common Core. Google and Yahoo have joined this funding effort and its UN sponsors. The interest is in building a uniform, collectivist “consumer.” Everyone is programmed with equal skills and should attain – barring “accidental” quirks – the same outcomes. Inequality signals injustice.

In thirty-five years of clinical practice as a psychologist, I have never seen individualism defeated and have concluded that Steve Jobs was a greater friend of human nature than has been true for Mr. Gates.

My own life obeyed a succession of clocks. I once was a mildly-hyperactive, attention-seeking bundle of twigs – an emotional clone of my insecure, skinny, quarrelsome mother.

I grew up in a time when every class day began with a prayer and the Pledge. In seventh grade, I spent prayer time looking around at the bowed heads. Although I respect, value, and frequently envy Christians, I, like one-third of the population and despite the determination of a half-dozen women who wanted to change me, remain an agnostic. I, however, still value the Pledge.

I left home when eighteen but still hear my father’s direction that I make a life better than his. After four-years of “liberal” honors courses, I discovered the very next summer that I was a conservative.

I studied psychopharmacology at Pitt, defined the role of serotonin, published often with “individual” repeated-measures research, and later had an abortive post-doc in a nest of Yale liberals.

At thirty-five, I discovered that I had found myself: I worked for a state government, published training materials for staff, and had a meaningful life doing the same things that my father had done in his Army career.

Thus, I am confident of Mr. Gate’s failure but still let’s not do Core Curriculum to our kids . . . it’s a waste of our money and an abuse of their nature.

A Few References

And earlier version of this essay is at http://www.deadcatsandclippings.com/?p=2783

Gates’ cash: http://deutsch29.wordpress.com/2013/08/27/a-brief-audit-of-bill-gates-common-core-spending/

Two Biographies:

Isaacson, Walter (2013) Steve Jobs. NY: Simon & Schuster.

Wallace, James & Jim Erickson (1992) Bill Gates and the Making of the Microsoft Empire. NY: Wiley.

Nature/Nurture:

Eaves, Lindon, Martin, Nick, & Heath, A. (1990) Religious affiliation in twins and their parents: Testing a model of cultural inheritance. Behavior Genetics, 20, 1-22.

Eaves, Lindon, Heath A, Martin N, Maesi H, Neale, M, Kendler K, Kirk K, & Corey L (1999) Comparing the biological and cultural inheritance of personality and social attitudes in the Virginia  30 000 study of twins and their relatives. Twin Research. 2: 62–80.

Murray, Charles (2008) Real Education: Four Simple Truths for Bringing America’s Schools Back to Reality. NY: Crown.

Murray, Charles (2012) Coming Apart: The State of White America. NY: Random House.

Murray, Charles (2013) American Exceptionalism: An Experiment in History. Washington, DC: American Enterprise Institute. (8/2/13)

Plomin, R. (1994) Genetics and Experience: The Interplay between Nature and Nurture. Thousand Oaks, CA: Sage.

Rowe, D. (2002) Biology and Crime. Los Angeles, CA: Roxbury.

Rushton, JP & Jensen, AR (2005) “Thirty years of research on race differences in cognitive ability.” In Jane Goodman-Delahunty (Ed.) Psychology, Public Policy, & Law. 11(2): 235-294.

Turner, J. Scott (2000) Extended Organism: The Physiology of Animal-Built Structures. Cambridge, MA: Harvard University Press.


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