Wednesday, 30 January 2008

John Stuart Mill’s Autobiography, Paragraph 35

It will be admitted, that a man of the opinions, and the character, above described, was likely to leave a strong moral impression on any mind principally formed by him, and that his moral teaching was not likely to err on the side of laxity or indulgence. The element which was chiefly deficient in his moral relation to his children was that of tenderness. I do not believe that this deficiency lay in his own nature. I believe him to have had much more feeling than he habitually showed, and much greater capacities of feeling than were ever developed. He resembled most Englishmen in being ashamed of the signs of feeling, and by the absence of demonstration, starving the feelings themselves. If we consider further that he was in the trying position of sole teacher, and add to this that his temper was constitutionally irritable, it is impossible not to feel true pity for a father who did, and strove to do, so much for his children, who would have so valued their affection, yet who must have been constantly feeling that fear of him was drying it up at its source. This was no longer the case later in life, and with his younger children. They loved him tenderly: and if I cannot say so much of myself, I was always loyally devoted to him. As regards my own education, I hesitate to pronounce whether I was more a loser or gainer by his severity. It was not such as to prevent me from having a happy childhood. And I do not believe that boys can be induced to apply themselves with vigour, and what is so much more difficult, perseverance, to dry and irksome studies, by the sole force of persuasion and soft words. Much must be done, and much must be learnt, by children, for which rigid discipline, and known liability to punishment, are indispensable as means. It is, no doubt, a very laudable effort, in modern teaching, to render as much as possible of what the young are required to learn, easy and interesting to them. But when this principle is pushed to the length of not requiring them to learn anything but what has been made easy and interesting, one of the chief objects of education is sacrificed. I rejoice in the decline of the old brutal and tyrannical system of teaching, which, however, did succeed in enforcing habits of application; but the new, as it seems to me, is training up a race of men who will be incapable of doing anything which is disagreeable to them. I do not, then, believe that fear, as an element in education, can be dispensed with; but I am sure that it ought not to be the main element; and when it predominates so much as to preclude love and confidence on the part of the child to those who should be the unreservedly trusted advisers of after years, and perhaps to seal up the fountains of frank and spontaneous communicativeness in the child’s nature, it is an evil for which a large abatement must be made from the benefits, moral and intellectual, which may flow from any other part of the education.

Note from KBJ: Mill writes long paragraphs, doesn’t he? This paragraph should be read and reflected upon by every teacher and parent. Mill is saying that there are two mistakes to be made in education. The first is catering to students’ wants; the second is tyrannizing students. It’s pretty clear that teachers and parents today, in the United States at least, make the first mistake, not the second. Should we be surprised by the results? By demanding so little of our children and students, we get little out of them.


Here is Thomas Sowell’s latest column.

The Debate

I watched the entire Republican debate this evening and enjoyed every second of it. The more I see John McCain, the more I detest him. He’s a vicious backstabber, no different from the Clintons. He’ll do whatever it takes to get elected, including lie about his opponents. I don’t think Americans want that, but I could be wrong. McCain is a militarist. Readers of this blog know that, while I supported the invasion of Iraq in 2003, I called for a withdrawal of American troops shortly thereafter. We have no business rebuilding nations. I’ve heard all the arguments about stabilizing the Middle East and not allowing Iraq to become a haven for terrorists. The whole world is a haven for terrorists. Are we supposed to police the world? We need to withdraw from the world and secure our borders. If someone attacks us, we retaliate. Let the people of the Middle East kill each other, if that’s what they want to do. I suppose this puts me in Ron Paul’s camp. So be it. Mitt Romney would make a good president. I think he’s surprised by McCain’s ruthlessness and finds it hard to respond in kind. He may be too nice to be a politician. Mike Huckabee is a terrific speaker. He appears to be able to think on his feet, which is a rare skill in American politics. He’s also funny. It’s hard to dislike him, but that doesn’t mean I want him as my president. All in all, it was an entertaining evening. I hope you enjoyed it. Time to prepare for tomorrow’s lectures.

Addendum: Michelle Malkin live-blogged the debate. I had not read her post when I wrote mine. In fact, I’m only now going to read it, now that I’ve linked to it.


I eat an ounce of these every day. They are scrumptious.


My friend and former student Carlos is an avid fan of the Nebraska Cornhuskers. Not just football, mind you, but wrestling. I lost only one wrestling match in my career, and I still regret it. I lost in overtime, by one point, to Ken Desjardins. This was in ninth-grade gym class. I was in the skinny runt category. My school had no wrestling team in those days. My brothers Glenn and Gary were terrific wrestlers. By the time Gary got to high school, it had a team. He won many medals. Here is Carlos’s post about his beloved Huskers.


Clinton, Obama
McCain, Romney, Huckabee
Are you serious?

Best of the Web Today


Animal Ethics

Here is Mylan Engel’s latest post.

A Year Ago


Hall of Fame?

Garret Anderson. (For an explanation of this feature, see here.)

John McCain

Michelle Malkin has a longish post about John McCain and conservatism. How many of those of you who consider yourselves conservative could vote for him?

Addendum: There’s a televised Republican debate tonight at 8:00 Eastern Time, on CNN. I’ll be watching. Mitt Romney needs to hit McCain hard on immigration, judges, campaign finance, and global warming.

From Today’s New York Times

To the Editor:

Of the many vexing comments in President Bush’s final State of the Union address, the one I find particularly off-putting is this: “Others have said they would personally be happy to pay higher taxes. I welcome their enthusiasm. I’m pleased to report that the I.R.S. accepts both checks and money orders.”

I am one of those citizens who are happy to pay taxes to support the functioning of our country and aid my fellow Americans, and am deeply offended by the president’s mockery of these sentiments.

Shari Jacobson
Selinsgrove, Pa., Jan. 29, 2008

Note from KBJ: The letter writer is unclear on the concept. President Bush was talking about those who believe that taxes are too low. He was saying that these people are free to send money to the government. He wasn’t mocking anyone, and he wasn’t talking about (or addressing) those who think taxes are just right or too high.

Paying It Forward

I’m grateful to all the people who wrote letters of recommendation in my behalf. It’s a large group, since I earned five college degrees and applied for teaching positions in two consecutive years. (My first teaching job was a one-year position at Texas A&M University. During that year, I completed my Ph.D. dissertation.) Besides expressing my gratitude to those who wrote letters for me, I vowed to pay it forward (so to speak) by writing letters for my own students. This is one part of my job I don’t mind. (Actually, the only part of my job I mind [i.e., dislike] is grading examinations, but that comes only four times a year: in the middle and at the end of each semester.) Today, near the end of my 20th year as a professor, I wrote my 100th letter of recommendation. Many of the students for whom I wrote letters have gone on to become attorneys, medical doctors, and professors. From time to time I hear from one of them. It is always gratifying.