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* BFU Weekly Journal *
documenting creation of a
Visionaries Learning Center

Bastiat Free University offers internationally accessible and actionable student-directed learning to visionaries and entrepreneurs.
Your BFU resources are now available without cost.

Start Today
Rediscover the pleasures found in self directed learning.

BFUniv, BFU college, self-directed e-learning, Bastiat Free University


Tuesday, May 29, 2007

To Accomplish or Merely To Do?

Reading this blog will take some time - some of your life. Will the thoughts you gain here help you accomplish something with your life, or is this just something to do?

We can do a great deal with our life, or we can do little. Running on the beach, driving to the mountains, watching a movie, there are many choices of what we can do. Most of our choices of "what to do next" don't help us accomplish something worthwhile.
What do you want to accomplish with your life?

You can talk with friends about some celebrity gossip; or together you can imagine and create something enduring -- the choice is yours. You can find a quiet place to set goals for your life and write them down; or you can go out drinking. Even television
can help you become successful -- just don't watch it.

Life is about choice. "There is only one basic human right, the right to do as you please. And with it comes the only basic human duty, the duty to take the consequences." - P.J. O'Rourke

What are your choices?


Is your next action to be determined by what you want to do, or by what you want to accomplish?

The choice is yours.

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Monday, May 21, 2007

Teachers and Students - Method Works For Some, Destroys Others

I just woke from a dream.

In the dream a music teacher, which I am not, was confronted by past students. Some came to fight, some to hug, some came in fear, others came rejoicing. In the dream I was a parent of a child that had refused instruction from this music teacher. Though I had supported my daughter, I now had doubts.


What was interesting is that the music teacher was preparing for a fight. In fact he was waiting for a returning student that now entered proclaiming "you gave me method when what I had needed was to learn expression." The teacher even pulled out and offered a twisted cane, knowing this was the weapon that student would chose for the fight.

Before they could engage in battle the first student invited in another student, this second student cringed away from the teacher like a much beaten dog. The teacher held out a favored instrument of student two, a guitar, almost like an offering - the second student edged back and out of sight without touching the guitar.

The first student now proclaimed the entry of a third student and her new husband; a warrior. The teacher cringed back as this pair approached, but they rushed at him - and gave him a group hug of gratitude. There were others waiting to enter the room, but I woke up ...

What can we take from this dream?

A reminder that children are individuals, with individual needs (I might add that adults are individuals too). A formal institutional school may suit some, stifle others. I believe in most instances the individual can best choose what suits them. For parents that often leaves us in the "wise advisory" role rather than being a consistent authority supporter.

As teachers we must realize that we also are individuals. We will work best in one type of environment, with a particular type of student, in disciplines that are suited to our personal teaching style. To avoid frustration and a quick burn out we must search for and enter into positions that support our own style.

Occasionally a hammer is needed to drive a nail straight into hard wood. But as I'm sure you have heard;
"when your only tool is a hammer, every problem becomes a nail." Nails and hard wood need a hammer, scroll work in brittle thin wood does not.

There are a lot of articles about student tragedies created by required schooling - there is also much evidence of successes.
We are left with questions rather than answers.

  • What if teachers only accepted students that needed their teaching style to excel?
  • What if a student spent time under various styles until they found those that maximized their learning potential?
  • What if we recognized that students know what they desire to learn; and it is the desire of the student, not the pontificating of an authority, that is key to effective education.
  • And finally what if we act on the idea that we all are individuals, that we know what is best for ourselves today.

We and our needs, including learning, will change over time. This too is within the realm of the individual. Perhaps that teacher in my dream would have had different responses from his students at different points in their lives.

A lot of questions and no answers, but then it was just a dream.


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Sunday, May 20, 2007

Reclaim the Pleasures of Reading

If required schooling stole from you the pleasures to be found in reading, reclaim those pleasures today.

The more you read, the faster and easier it becomes to read. The faster and easier it becomes to read the more you will enjoy reading. This in contrast to so many pleasures that dim as you repeat them over and over.

The varied information and entertainments to be discovered by an avid reader allow the opportunity for constantly fresh endeavors. Many accomplished readers will be reading several pieces of literature at once, absorbing one, expanding desired knowledge with another, escaping to new worlds with a third, and much more.

If there is a book that you remember fondly, now is a good time to re-read it or search out other works by the same or similar authors. There is a great deal of pleasure waiting for you on the internet, at a local library, and from other sources.

Dig in and read for yourself. The pleasures of reading will be yours.


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Saturday, May 19, 2007

Militant Science

When science becomes militant, it is no longer science, and it is probably very wrong.

Pick almost any controversial subject and you will have scientists on both sides of the argument loudly claiming that their papers and research prove the other side deluded. If not the scientists themselves, you will have politically and self interested parties waving the papers - and often quoting pieces of research out of context.

Militant scientists consistently allude to conflicts of interest and moribund reasoning in their counterparts; yet they also line up for private funding and government grants while asserting categorically that they are right. Affronting common sense they claim to expose opposing scientists as ignorant and ignoring scientific method; and yet they expect instant respect for their own views as "top" scientists.

To find the reality of what is currently guessed at as knowledge, do not believe the headlines they seek or listen to their diatribes. Find quiet researchers in closely aligned fields to question, listen as they talk of their studies. You will uncover both the uncertainty within science, and gain insights to help shape your own opinion.

Just remain ready to change those opinions.


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Monday, May 14, 2007

Bastiat Free University - Quarterly Update

Greetings to All,

Your BFU is still the equivalent of a provincial college, proud, but with a lot of room to improve.

While this year was slated to be one of introspection there is still work being done.

The BFU Journal is still updated, sometimes with very valuable information. You can subscribe to the feed, just hit that orange button on the right of the URL above. Our Squidoo lens also continues to evolve, it now has an improved donation section, and just about everything else has changed also.

Our growth has settled down, we have a steady (no charge) enrollment of about 10 students a week. This will eventually force a decision on our part, we have at least three choices:

1) Do nothing - we are meeting some needs as we sit, and while operating at a loss it is not a big one.

2) Improve our class structure and offer better value so as to attract some paying students. Time and cash are required for this - both in short supply.

3) Continue to improve slowly as time and finances allow. We have added some content to classes and have received some good suggestions for new classes.

Yes, BFU will continue to exist, it will continue to improve, and at some point in the future it will be needed as the industrial age education systems collapse.

For now we are needed by some that wish inexpensive access to tools for gaining wisdom and understanding.

You are here when it all started, I hope you will stay with us through our eventual triumphs.

May you discover the best in your life.

Sincerely,


Allan R. Wallace

Rector
Bastiat Free University


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Wednesday, May 09, 2007

Erasmus Quoting Peace (1521)

I have just started to reread Plutarch's Lives, a powerful book that has insights to stir the hearts of the great and of those that would be great.

As Plutarch said of his writings, "It must be borne in mind that my design is not to write histories but lives. And the most glorious exploits do not always furnish us with the clearest discoveries of virtue or vice in men; sometimes a matter of less moment, an expression or a jest, informs us better of their characters and inclinations, than the most famous of sieges, the greatest of armaments, or the bloodiest of battles whatsoever."

While the following piece on peace was written long after Plutarch, It was also written long before our time. I read it as another lesson in the value of old books and essays - their blind spots were different than ours, which makes their feelings and points potent. That is what has lead me back once again to Plutarch's Lives.


"Now, if I, whose name is Peace, am a personage glorified by the united praise of God and man, as the fountain, the parent, the nurse, the patroness, the guardian of every blessing which either heaven or earth can bestow;

if without me nothing is flourishing, nothing safe, nothing pure or holy, nothing pleasant to mortals, or grateful to the Supreme Being;

if, on the contrary, war is one vast ocean, rushing on mankind, of all the united plagues and pestilences in nature;

if, at its deadly approach, every blossom of happiness is instantly blasted, every thing that was improving gradually degenerates and dwindles away to nothing, every thing that was firmly supported totters on its foundation, every thing that was formed for long duration comes to a speedy end, and every thing that was sweet by nature is turned into bitterness;

if war is so unhallowed that it becomes the deadliest bane of piety and religion;

if there is nothing more calamitous to mortals, and more detestable to heaven, I ask, how in the name of God, can I believe those beings to be rational creatures; how can I believe them to be otherwise than stark mad;

who, with such a waste of treasure, with so ardent a zeal, with so great an effort, with so many arts, so much anxiety, and so much danger, endeavour to drive me away from them, and purchase endless misery and mischief at a price so high." -- Erasmus

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Monday, May 07, 2007

Handling Uncertainty

I was cruising through news stories and blogs recently and read a great quote -- "Some people handle uncertainty by being certain." I can't remember the source, but I do remember the context, it was a scientist commenting on how scientists that get emotionally involved in emotional debate hurt the cause of science. Those calling other scientists and researchers bought or deluded create an atmosphere that displays the ambiguities within our knowledge.

I actually think this is a good thing.

In a college class, and frequently within an entire university department, there is seldom open debate. The subjects are taught as if the knowledge being dispensed is beyond challenge and is fully established by rigorous scientific methods.

We give too much respect and credence to folks with lots of degrees and a lab coat. Scientists immersed in bitter feuds backing their opinions with research papers reveal that they are all too human. None are exclusively brilliant, or angry, fraudulent, ethical, etc. -- and all of them will remain very human.

Five or six more years of college, and a few years of teaching and writing does not raise your typical college student beyond questioning. The fact that they reproach and mock each other should make you feel uncomfortable trusting the full weight of your opinion on the skinny reed of their pronouncements. They may say "we welcome questions as that spurs further research," but question their basic assumptions and you will be shouted down.

A
s an example present arguments from the other side of the climate change or evolution debates to a professor. In most instances they have already settled their mind on one argument or another and will not listen to unfamiliar logic. They are like children covering their ears and shouting "I can't hear you!"

Ben Franklin's general advice is as true for science as it is for other fields: "If you would persuade, you must appeal to interest rather than intellect."

I was going to give some specific examples; say of medicine where we know of many helpful drugs; but not how they will interact with most other drugs or specific individuals. As soon as I list a few examples there will be a cry from other scientists that state "We are not like that here!" Yes you are, but specifics for all fields are beyond the time alloted me on Earth.

Entrenched dogma and fads exist in the scientific community just as they do in the rest of society. There is a great deal to praise in current science, but it is not a wholly reliable source of unqualified answers. As surely as todays scientists talk of the ignorance and intolerance of their predecessors, so will their descendants talk of them.

"An important scientific innovation rarely makes its way by gradually winning over and converting its opponents: What does happen is that the opponents gradually die out." -- Max Planck


"At some point all of us end up handling uncertainty by being certain," paraphrased Allan Wallace, smug in his certainty.

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