Thursday, August 28, 2008

"Sustainability" Another Floating Abstraction

On August 15th WJR radio talk show host Frank Beckmann had an op-ed in the Detroit News titled "'Sustainable' curriculum teaches kids to envy success." In it Mr. Beckmann reports:
"This curriculum is called Sustainability Education and nowhere in the syllabus can one find any inspirational themes that use the success stories of American entrepreneurs as role models to be admired by students.

Instead, groups like Creative Change Educational Solutions in Ypsilanti emphasize the creation of a "humane and environmentally sustainable future."

Several schools in Ypsilanti and Ann Arbor have committed to Sustainability Education and crow about projects that have students compare "wages and working conditions in factories in China and Vietnam (to) corporate profits...and compensation for chief executive officers." In other words, kids aren't taught to admire and emulate success -- they're taught to envy such outcomes and "evaluate campus boycotts...and workers rights movements."
Obviously another attempt to indoctrinate children to hate the good for being the good, more concretely, to hate capitalism.

In Wednesday's 8/27/08 Detroit News is a LTE from two members of Bloomfield Hills School Board taking Mr. Beckmann's op-ed to task. In it they claim
"It's a given that our children face a dramatically different future than we did. Global workforce needs will require competence in reading, writing, math, science and computer literacy. But Beckmann misses the point: While it's worthwhile to honor our industrial past and important to create knowledgeable technicians, job success will demand both comprehensive knowledge and highly discerning thinking."
I hate to break it to my Bloomfield Hills neighbors but 'comprehensive knowledge and highly discerning thinking' is what our elementary and high schools are supposed to be about and would be if it weren't for the anti-conceptual, educational philosophy of former intellectuals like John Dewey et el. Nowhere in this attempted rebuttal did they refute Mr. Beckmann's charge that their curriculum teaches kids to envy success.

The home page of the above mentioned organization provides ready made curricula to teachers for the advancement of collectivism which is hidden in the candy wrapper of environmentalism. One of their ready made courses is called "Economics for the Common Good."

But I would like to apply a little 'discerning thinking' to their core ideal 'sustainability.' Sustainability is a meaningless concept by itself. It gains meaning only when attached to a thing or process one wants to sustain. My dictionary says sustain means to 'maintain or 'prolong.' To sustain then means to resist or prevent change. The call for 'sustainability' therefore means to call for stagnation or maintaining the status quo. In the above case it would be a government controlled stagnation which of course, we already have in education. This stagnant school system---government controlled indoctrination--is one of the things they seek to sustain. The rest is the environment, the economy, the culture etc.

The two school board members claim that the UN had no influence on their program. This is flat out false. Maybe no direct input but the ideal that 'sustainability' is a 'practical' goal was started by the UN in a paper called Agenda 21 in which it declared that modern Western industrial and technological society is unsustainable, even in your neighborhood. The supporting evidence was based on false assumptions which I won't go into here. But the main false premise is that everyone thought that our way of living was sustainable in that no more progress would be needed, that the standard of living we had in the 80s and 90s would last forever. I don't know of anyone who thought that way except maybe some union leaders and some liberals.

If people were polled back in the 80s or 90s and asked if they thought their standard of living were sustainable to which they would say yes, it does not mean they were thinking of freezing time at that moment or living that lifestyle unchanged forever and that this should be condemned as unsustainable. People understood that in a free society, things change generally for the better. It is this progress they would refer to as sustainable. They did not believe that their lifestyle would destroy the planet. They had to be convinced otherwise.

Like the concept extremism, sustainability is a floating abstraction. It is never defined explicitly. No clear evidence is ever given as to why a 'sustainable' environment or economy is a good thing or why an unsustainable one is bad. In a universe whose nature is constant change, 'sustainability' is a defiance of reality.

The purpose of the concept is to appeal to those who are in the habit of always thinking in terms of the approximate. No one wants to be for unsustainability right? Who would argue for things that don't last? So sustainability is something everyone should obviously be for. All they want from their approximate-minded public is an approximate "I guess so."

Notice the words used by environmentalists. They always want to 'save' this or 'preserve' that and 'protect' some other thing. From what? Change. (Which, when initiated by humans, environmentalists equate with destruction.) Progress is a form of change. Growth is a form of progress. Even nature sustains itself by a constant process of change. Species evolve while others go extinct. To teach children that sustainability is an ideal is to set them against the requirements of their own survival.

For thousands of years man has lived in abject poverty which is easily sustainable. So is a 25 year lifespan and slavery. The only change open to man in such societies is death which is permanently sustainable.

If we want sustainable progress, then laissez-faire capitalism should be demanded loudly. It is the only system that can provide it. And it can only exist in a constitutional rights-respecting republic. The one social system that's not sustainable is democracy. And neither is a sustainability curriculum designed to sustain that democracy.
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