Archive for March, 2012

My Son The Ringleader

Posted March 19, 2012 By Steve

“Beneath this mask there is more than flesh. Beneath this mask there is an idea, Mr. Creedy, and ideas are bulletproof.” — V, in V for Vendetta

Guy Fawkes Mask
I have four kids, Duncan is 15, Fiona is 12½, Graham is 11, and Noah is 7. While they’re close knit, they’re all very different from one another, and some of them are better at attracting attention than others. In fact, usually, Duncan, Fiona, and Noah get the most attention, usually through error, and poor Graham, who even gets called “the good one” from time to time, often hears from us the least. In fact, sometimes he’s so well behaved that I wonder whether he takes after me in temperament at all, or whether he really just takes after his mild-mannered mom.

It seems however, that there’s an anti-authoritarian streak in him after all. As a fifth grader, he’s in the uppermost class at his elementary school, which means this is his sixth and final year there. Recently the school changed their procedure for where kids sit during lunch, making it more restrictive and having them all sit in a row rather than where they can face one another and socialize while eating. It was an unpopular change among students, and Graham took it upon himself to resist it.

His first step was to draft a petition calling on school administrators to return to the previous lunch seating arrangement, getting many of his fellow students to sign it, and even getting the signature of one of the teachers. On delivering this petition to administrators, he discovered what most activists soon discover — when the will of the people can be easily ignore by authority figures, the smart money bets that the people will be disregarded by those in authority.

Undaunted, he organized his friends to take chalk with them to recess, and write what he described as “V for Vendetta” symbols on the blacktop as a continuing protest. The only response was that they were told not to use the school’s chalk for such a purpose. Still undaunted, he then got his friends to bring chalk from home so they could continue to express their opinion without being accused of misusing school resources.

It was at this point that he was sent to the principal’s office, because he was identified as a “ringleader” of what was happening. He wasn’t suspended or expelled or anything like that, but they did confiscate his chalk (his chalk, mind you) telling him that what he and his friends were doing was “vandalism” — even though rain would wash it away and even though strangely it wasn’t considered vandalism when other students would draw on the blacktop with chalk for reasons other than expressing their opinion about school policy, e.g., drawing squares for hopscotch and the like. In fairness, he also got an explanation for the change in lunch seating procedure, although he wasn’t particularly impressed by its reasoning.

Now, I have the feeling he’s gone as far as he wants to go with this, and that’s his call. But even though his mother was appalled, I told him that I was proud of him for not being intimidated by authority figures. In the long run, he’ll be much better off if he’s not swayed by those who want to bend him to their will, and in particular doesn’t let those who are supposed to be educating him steal his dreams.

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Busting A Move

Posted March 18, 2012 By Steve

“I replaced the headlights in my car with strobe lights, so it looks like I’m the only one moving.” — Steven Wright

U-Haul
Over on the resume page I’ve updated my address, and I suppose that calls for a bit of explanation!

One of the most fun things in life is to move from one house to another. Well, okay, it’s not really all that much fun. But it is a pretty big experience, at least. I say this because this past weekend my family and I moved houses. Even since my oldest son came to live with me it had seemed like there was just one room too few to meet everyone’s needs. In particular, I’d really noticed the lack of a space of my own, however small, that no one else ever touched. It didn’t help that we’d been there for five years — which means little things just accumulated over time until the house felt like it was bursting at the seams.

We only moved two blocks, and from one townhouse to another, so there are a number of comparisons to be made. It’s unquestionably a good move, but as with most things in life, there are tradeoffs. The old house had less space, but it was closer to the trail along Holmes Run that is a great place for walking. The parking lot for the old house was never full, but at the new house parking is pretty limited for visitors. The old house was part of a large complex consisting entirely of townhouses where a lot of us shared a fairly large courtyard. The new house is right on the street, although it has a back yard that’s fenced off and consists almost entirely of a huge deck under a large holly tree, which is very pleasant.

But most importantly, the new place is much larger. In particular it has a basement, the new lair of my teenager, although part of the deal for him to get that kind of space was that when his siblings are around that’s the place that will be their containment area. The living room on the main floor is large enough that it would serve well for entertaining, although the parking situation will mitigate that. But most importantly, to me, there are enough rooms that one of them is my office, where I can leave things knowing no one will move them, and where I can concentrate without hearing what’s going on elsewhere in the house. Similarly, Adella likes the kitchen so much she’s taking the breakfast nook over as her own workspace.

So there we are. We actually took the opportunity to get rid of a lot of extra stuff while we were packing, and I think we’ll manage to divest ourselves of a bit more during what is turning out to be a fairly lengthy unpacking process. And if we can figure out where people would park we do hope to have a housewarming party in the near future — although in the interest of not ending up in the same boat it will definitely be a gift-free one!

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Who’d Get Your Billion Dollars?

Posted March 6, 2012 By Steve

Flow
Recently someone asked online “If you had a billion dollars to give either to the Ludwig von Mises Institute or the Cato Institute, which would it be?”

The question got a lot of responses, and each of the two institutions had its defenders. I thought about it, but I realized that I don’t really love either of them enough to drop them a billion dollars.

I think Cato’s job is to influence those who make decisions, but that corporate money completely drowns them out. Sometimes they have free lectures on a topic that interests me, and I’ve gone to those. I’m glad they’re there, but I don’t think they’re anywhere near as important as they like to think.

And the Mises Institute may be really strident on issues that few others address directly, like sound money and copyright. I appreciate that. But I’ve been led to believe that their chairman is the real author of the loathsome stuff from Ron Paul’s old newsletters, and I just can’t imagine handing that guy a sum that amounts to the annual GDP of the Seychelles. Besides, like Cato, they may say the right things, but ultimately, what good does that do if the only people who hear them are those who already agree?

So I said that I would use it to set up a fund to support entrepreneurs, or failing that, I’d give it to FLOW. My argument was that entrepreneurs do a lot more good for people than any libertarian talking shop, and that it’s pretty tough to become an entrepreneur without finding out good and hard what a hindrance government really is.

Unfortunately for FLOW, I don’t actually have an extra billion dollars lying around. But it’s fun to think about what sort of change one might be able to promote with that level of effort. So… who’d get your billion dollars for change?

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