Sunday, January 31, 2010

The Right Words At The Right Time

The Right Words At The Right Time

The best life lessons are a few words on the right subject, at the right time.
- Bill Allin, Canadian life coach and author of Turning It Around: Causes and Cures for Today's Epidemic Social Problems

My now-deceased first wife was a far better teacher than I was. I was an educator.

What's the difference? A teacher teaches a prescribed curriculum, a manageable collection of facts and skills, testable and widely accepted as part of the general education of a child. An educator grows children.

I joined the profession because I admired her skill as a teacher. I learned later that her teaching skill was greatly helped by her knowledge, which she gained as a voracious reader. I was a non-reader at the time, in fact in today's terms I would be known as functionally illiterate.

On a break during a summer job I had in my sixteenth year of life, while sitting on a factory loading dock I overheard two older men talking in the yard below. One said "I never have conversations with young people. I find that until they are at least 25, they don't know enough to talk about."

Thinking about that I realized that I knew almost nothing. I had no skills that derived from hobbies or training from my parents. I couldn't claim to know much about any subject at all.

That prompted me to start learning on a grand scale. As I knew nothing about anything, I learned everything I could on every subject I could, be it on the radio or television, as a fly on the wall while meaningful conversations were taking place among older adults, or reading cereal boxes.

Thirty years later people were calling me a human encyclopedia. I finally knew something others could respect me for. Two decades after that, I am sharing some of that with you here.

One overheard snippet of conversation changed the direction of my life.

During my grade ten year, my geography teacher bought a new Volkswagen beetle, a new import to my native Canada. While casual conversations between teachers and students in those days were few, somehow I got into a casual debate with my teacher over the merits of the VW. Based on overheard conversations from others, I took the side claiming that the Beetle was junk.

To my shock, my teacher raised the issue of his new car in our next geography class and asked me to bring forth the points I had made the previous day and add more. What I knew was more rumour than fact. I had never ridden in a VW and had seen more of them advertised on television than on the roads around my neighbourhood.

While the classroom debate added nothing to the knowledge based of my classmates about Volkswagens, the experience made me realize that teaching can be more than conveyance of facts and mastering of skills.

That teacher tried to get a shy kid to speak up in a class situation by engaging a teacher in an unplanned debate in front of the whole class. I didn't lose the debate because my teacher wanted to give me an experience I had never had before, not to squash (albeit deservedly) the poorly founded opinion one of his weakest students held.

A year or so later, in a different high school, my all-business geometry teach went off-topic in class for some reason when the subject of drinking alcohol came up. He said "If I have to depend on an artificial stimulant to get enjoyment out of my life, then I had better rethink and reformulate my life so I can get more enjoyment out of living it."

After that I understood that many people willingly accept such a poor quality of life that they need alcohol or drugs or gambling or shopping sprees or any number of other addictive habits just to make them feel better about life for a short while.

Today, by what I have learned, by what I have read, experienced and thought about thoroughly, I feel so in touch with everything that exists that I can feel higher than any drunk or junk addict all day long. My high doesn't go away and it has no backlash sobering-up period.

In 1995, a couple of years after my long-divorced wife died and my children refused to see me or let me see my grandchildren, my daughter wrote me a letter in which she said "My two daughters are well and happy. I have told them that all their grandparents are dead and I don't want to upset them by having them learn otherwise."

To know that the children I helped raise I will never see again and my grandchildren will never know the wonderful experiences available to kids who know their grandparents set me on a quest to learn something new.

Why or how could a child ever come to feel that way about a parent? To me the effect was like losing your whole family in a fire, all at once, only it was worse knowing that they would all carry on their lives without me. I had something to give that was more valuable than money.

As an educator and sociologist, I had the skills to research how kids learn and develop. I learned more than most people could even imagine.

Mostly importantly, I learned that what children learn in the first six years of their lives molds the kind of people they will be for the rest of their lives. As I was a feral child who never had any toys or experiences with other children for my first six years, I was frightened of my own kids when they were little.

I thought "I'll be better with them when they are old and I can teach them stuff I know." Their mother taught them virtually everything they learned for the first six years of life of our children.

Lo and behold, our children grew to become like their mother, not like me. I'm not sad for me so much as I am sad for my children and grandchildren. My grandkids will grow to be like their mother as she grew to be like her own mother. It's how life works.

Today we have parents who are too busy to teach important life lessons to their kids. They react when the kids are bad, but they teach little when their kids need it.

Instead they give them video games and sit them in front of the television for entertainment. Think about that. Would you want a child to grow up believing that real people in their lives are just like the people they see on television? How twisted and perverse would that be?

Teaching critically important life lessons is relatively easy and fast. In most cases it's a matter of saying each one in a few sentences and allowing the kids to talk with the adult about the lesson.

If we don't teach positive life lessons, children grow to become like the people they see on television and in video games. Look around you and think about what kids in your community are doing with their lives. Sadly, this is one case where life imitates art.

We are all the worse for it.

We need to learn how and when to do the job of parenting well.

Broken people are hard to fix. Better to give them the knowledge and skills they need to prevent them from breaking.

Bill Allin is the author of Turning It Around: Causes and Cures for Today's Epidemic Social Problems, a guidebook for teachers and parents who want to teach their children the right lessons at the right times in the right way.
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Wednesday, January 20, 2010

Darwin Was An Atheist and Other Lies We Were Taught

Darwin Was An Atheist and Other Lies We Were Taught

Charles Darwin was the ultimate atheist, or so we are encouraged to believe.

"As a Deist, Charles Darwin believed that God set in motion the physical laws of the universe, which he proposed included laws of "natural selection" and the mutability of the species. Clearly, Charles Darwin was not an Atheist, and those among the 'conservative' Theists who misrepresent him as such, do him great disservice. "
- Bill M. Tracer in Biography, September 7, 2007

Science cast Darwin as the godfather of the modern belief in a godless evolution of everything by molding his reputation into something Darwin himself would have strongly disapproved of. As Bill Tracer said in our opening quote, Charles Darwin was a Deist based on the evidence he saw in his travels and understood from sorting his copious data.

Science, in general, approves only of facts and theories it can prove or that it believes it can prove in the future as more data becomes available--and nothing of anything science can't understand or comprehend at the moment--it ignores Darwin's belief in a creator because the belief didn't fit with what the powers of the science establishment want us to believe.

Darwin saw creation as a work in progress, not as a six-day one-time series of events that happened a few thousand years ago. He likely wondered why an all-powerful deity needed to rest after one week of work and how a deity that didn't live on earth supposedly created everything according to an earthly calendar of six earth days. And maybe why spirits of good people who had died and gone to heaven needed streets paved with gold--or any kind of streets for that matter.

Ironically, Darwin's God seemed to work like a good and diligent scientist today, including making the odd mistake and working toward new horizons of creation. Instead of wiping out his mistakes (think the Great Flood of the Bible) God tweaks his creations and lets them develop and evolve into something better on their own.

Unlike modern scientists who believe that if they can prove or understand something it couldn't possibly have been created by a deity--that is, if I can understand it, it can't be of divine origin--Darwin saw connections he believed could never be explained or understood. His grasp of "everything" known was much greater than science of today will even acknowledge exists.

Extra-sensory perception (ESP), one identical twin feeling pain when the other is hurt, even many forms of original thinking fall outside of what science today is prepared to accept or understand. It simply ignores what it can't comprehend, as if nothing exists or is real unless it fits inside the box science made for itself. Witness how hard it was for Einstein's ideas or any other major theory backed by considerable mathematical evidence to be accepted as mainstream.

(As an aside, science has also cast Darwin as the wise old man with the long white beard, if you remember images of him, like a venerable Greek philosopher. Darwin was actually clean shaven for most of his life. He only grew the beard late in his life because he found shaving too hard on his skin. The beard photos convey the image of respect science wants people to have of Charles Darwin, even though science his misrepresented his theories.)

Friedrich Nietzsche was an evil atheist who wanted to destroy everything religion has ever stood for.

"God is dead. God remains dead. And we have killed him. How shall we comfort ourselves, the murderers of all murderers? What was holiest and mightiest of all that the world has yet owned has bled to death under our knives: who will wipe this blood off us? What water is there for us to clean ourselves? What festivals of atonement, what sacred games shall we have to invent? Is not the greatness of this deed too great for us? Must we ourselves not become gods simply to appear worthy of it?"
- Nietzsche (first written in The Gay Science, later in Thus Spoke Zarathustra, this version in "The Madman")

Nietzsche must have had his tongue planted firmly in his cheek when he wrote this. Others, following his full explanations of how fantastical and unsupportable the descriptions of hundreds of gods of various religions around the world, claim that man created God in his own image, not the other way around.

The Christian God, for example, is not the God that Jesus of Nazareth spoke of in the Bible, but a semi-creation of Paul as he created his church in Greece. The Christian God of Paul (and of the Church of Rome that followed his lead) was a Father--Christians of the day were sexists who could not abide by a non-male God, Rome still does not accept women priests--with female characteristics.

He is kind, loving, caring, protective, helpful, attentive to all prayers and watchful of every move we make and notes every thought we think. Just like a good mother caring for a young child. The fact that no evidence exists of these characteristics in real life affects nothing to the religious propaganda.

The Followers of Jesus of Nazareth in the Holy Land, on the other hand, were Jews who had female leaders (Mary Magdalene, among others) as well as male leaders and who believed in peace and love, as taught by Jesus. The Church of Rome systematically had them destroyed, most by 250 CE, the rest in the Inquisition.

The fact that the Christian God (the same God as that of the Jews and Muslims) also must have created devastating diseases, natural disasters that have killed millions over the years and atrocities such as genocide the Abrahamic religions conveniently attribute to the Devil. Which they decline to admit must also have been created by the same God. But the Devil has given Christians a convenient dumping ground for everything they don't like about creation and everything unpleasant they can't explain about life and their own religion.

Nietzsche was not an atheist at all. He wanted religions to reformulate their concepts of God to conform with what is real, provable and even that may be sensed by people who are attuned to something beyond the material world. It was false gods that he wanted to be dead and buried.

Nietzsche could see a real divinity at work--perhaps even that nothing could exist without that deity--but he had no opportunity to be heard among the voices that shouted against him. His concept of existentialism was twisted to make it seem like nihilism or unfettered moral licence.

He believed that we should live today, for today is all we have. Whatever we are going to do, we should do it today. Not because we won't exist tomorrow but because tomorrow's conditions may have changed to prevent the good we want to do today from happening.

Advertising is an emotional force designed to sell product or concepts that will generate cash flow. The most successful advertisers have learned how to manipulate human emotions so people believe they need things they really don't need. "Advertising" is a cleaner and more socially acceptable word for "brainwashing."

As a student in a media advertising class many years ago I was assigned to write commercials that appealed to the emotions. Those emotions should preferably appeal directly to some need my target market would have.

What if my viewers or listeners or readers didn't need what my sponsor had to sell? "Create a need" was the reply. You can always create a need if you base it on an emotion, such as vanity or the need for acceptance.

So we have a cosmetics industry founded on the belief that looking like a movie star is right and good. Revlon, founded by Charles and Joseph Revson and Charles Lachman (he contributed the "L" to the company name) began in the makeup rooms of movie sets in the 1930s. Every woman, they reasoned, wanted to look like a movie star.

The mind-molding advertising campaigns over the years have been so successful that the fact that a majority of men looking for a female mate want to see what she looks like without makeup matters little. Their advertising makes fortunes every year.

We have commercials to convince us that battery operated tooth brushes can reach places that "manual" brushes cannot, a concept that apparently doesn't stagger the beliefs of buyers. They also do not encourage us to use floss, where real cavities begin--tooth decay almost never begins where people brush, instead it starts between the teeth and at the gum line--because there is little money to be made by selling cheap floss material.

We have car manufacturers encouraging us to buy new cars so our old ones don't break down on our way to work--and so we will look especially good in them--but they don't make cars better so they won't break down as often. We don't hear about military vehicles breaking down in the middle of battles, so manufacturers must be able to make durable vehicles.

In conclusion, let me leave you with one personal experience. As a student in a grade seven geography class, I found myself intensely interested in a map of the world on the wall, moreso than the lesson being delivered. As the tropics were very different from temperate Canada, my homeland, I was eager to learn about tropical countries so different from what I had experienced.

I noticed that the name Ecuador seemed strangely different from the names of its neighbouring countries which were mostly named after people or names in European nations. I also observed that the equator ran straight through the map of Ecuador.

Being a student of modest achievement and struggling enough with English that I knew nothing of any other language, I asked my teacher if the country name derived from its location on the planet, at the equator. No, I was assured, the similarities of the two words were mere coincidence. The very idea was dismissed quickly, with a sneer from the teacher for my interruption.

"Ecuador straddles the equator, from which it takes its name."
- Wikipedia

What can we learn from all this? No source can be trusted completely. Question everything. The truth does not emerge smoothly and effortlessly from what we see, hear and read on a daily basis.

Failure to doubt, to question and to do our own research opens us to be victims of those who want nothing more than to take from us. That applies to our devotion to beliefs as well as to our money.

Bill Allin is the author of Turning It Around: Causes and Cures for Today's Epidemic Social Problems, a guidebook for teachers and parents who want to teach children what they need to know, when they need to know it, rather than leaving too much to their learning on the street.
Learn more at