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Month: September 2016

Notes – Horizon Kinetics 2015 Compendium (@HorizonKinetics, #investing, #diversification, #indexing, #EMH)

Notes – Horizon Kinetics 2015 Compendium (@HorizonKinetics, #investing, #diversification, #indexing, #EMH)

For the last two years, Murray Stahl and Steve Bregman of Horizon Kinetics have published a “Compendium Compilation” of their various research pieces and market commentariesthroughout the year. I recently requested copies of the 2014 and 2015 compendiums and just completed reading through the 2015 compendium. What follows are “stitched together” quotes from several of the essays.

The Indexation Experience

An active manager always can be found to be deficient if underperformance relative to an appropriate index is discovered. In fact, a manager can be found to be deficient if a return generated is equivalent to the appropriate index… one could always purchase the index as the less expensive investment alternative.

How does one judge an index to be deficient?

Since short-term interest rates approach zero in most regions of the world, the valuation environment is very benign… most governments during this period have embarked upon grand fiscal stimulus efforts that are now becoming unsustainable.

When one measures a manager relative to an index, is one measuring investment acumen or marketing ability?

The manager… will purchase a security until the expected excess rate of return is zero. The index… is marketed until the marginal revenue from a product is zero, which is an entirely different concept.

The index is not constrained by valuation.

Most indexes, in the fullness of time, do not earn impressive rates of return.

Problems With Indexation

When indexation excludes the so-called marginal securities, two things happen. The marginal securities are the stocks where the volatility really resides, which means the index is going to lose its volatility. Second, the marginal securities are an important contributor to what would have been the return… their negative impact gets captured on the way down– but the positive return impact does not get captured on the way up.

It is the nature of a market capitalization weighted index that it is always un-diversifying.

Diversification

 

The problem with such an approach [wide diversification] is that it is quite impossible for any individual, or even a team of individuals, to have a good working knowledge of the individual investments at a security level. The portfolio can only be understood in terms of its statistical attributes… CalPERS… has about 20,349 individual investments.

If a team of 10 analysts were to work eight hours a day for three months, which is 22 business days per month, with no interruptions, the team would have at its disposal 10 x 8 x 3 x 22 man-hours to read 20,349 quarterly reports. This amounts to 5,280 man-hours available to read 20,349 quarterly reports, which equates to slightly more than 15 minutes per quarterly report… It should be obvious that success or failure in this endeavor must depend upon whether the statistical attributes of the portfolio provide the data necessary to make intelligent asset allocation decisions… it is impossible to devise a simple list of fundamental statistics to be used to comprehend a portfolio… because of differences in corporate expenditure practices, depreciation policies, tax laws in various jurisdictions, and GAAP vs. IFRS accounting.

The many diversified funds that purchase the most liquid securities must by definition generally own the same securities, since there is only one set of liquid securities. If the diversified institutions, therefore, own the same securities, when studying the price behavior of those securities, those institutions are, in reality, studying themselves.

If one believes in the Efficient Markets Hypothesis, then securities prices must reflect the beliefs of the holders of the securities. Yet, as shown above, the holders of securities do not study the securities. In fact, given diversification practices, it is not possible to study the securities. It is only possible that the investors study one another. Thus, one is confronted with a feedback loop or a huge self-reference paradox, as one may see in the paintings of M.C. Escher, such as Waterfall or Drawing Hands.

Another interesting case is the Singapore Index… returned 3.2% per annum. The mere fact that the economy of Singapore grew at over 6% per annum for more than 18 years does not correlate well with the stock market reutnr for the simple reason that the Singaporean companies in the index are global companies. These results reflect many factors apart from the economy of Singapore.

Similarly, the Swedish index does not necessarily reflect the economy of Sweden. And the UK index does not necessarily reflect the economy of the UK.

The thrust of these facts is to question, if not actually reject, the geographical form of classification as an asset allocation building block. That calls into question the entire international method of investing. The characteristics of equities have little to do with the legal place of domicile of a given firm. However, on a weekly basis the Investment Company Institute records $3 billion to $4 billion withdrawn from domestic equity funds and deposited into internaitonal equity funds in search of diversification and risk control atrributes that simply do not exist. As has been the case with many widely held investment beliefs without foundation, this will not have a good outcome.

Inefficient Markets

[Fischer Black] said that there are people who are highly knowledgeable about certain companies– the information traders– and when they trade, they are very well informed. Most others, however, are not so well informed; they are the noise traders.

[Fischer Black’s concept of] efficient markets was that if the bulk of investors were in an index that, as he defined it, would include every stock out there– everything– the noise traders would go there. That would eliminate the bulk of the noise traders from the active marketplace, so only the information traders would be trading. They would not go into the index, becuase they are highly informed, and the market would be much more efficient in the sense that it would reflect the judgments of informed participants.

If one reflects upon this matter [Carl Icahn’s letter to Apple], one will see that Mr. Icahn has posed an exceedingly profound question to all investors, and especially academics. Apple is the largest company in the world. It is arguably the most ubiquitous company in the world. Billions of people use Apple products daily and are very familiar with those products. If there is any equity in the world that should be priced efficiently, it should be Apple.

Yet, Apple has a lower P/E than companies such as Exxon, Coca-cola, and even Philip Morris International. One might debate the future prospects for Apple, but surely these are more robust than those of Philip Morris International. Does anyone assert that demand for cigarettes will increase?

The money manager industry is not populated by Homo Economicus, carefully and rationally evaluating different investment opportunities. The money manager can only survive by attracting assets to manage for a fee.

Modern financial theory cannot explain momentum because, if the stock market is efficient, there should be no serial correlation observed in securities… momentum investing is not a new innovation. It is a concept virtually as old as the idea of a stock market, although it has not always been called “momentum.” Technical analysis is essentially a search for securities with momentum.

It is now possible to raise substantial sums for almost any index if the rate of return is sufficiently high. It is nearly impossible to raise money for any index if the rate of return is insufficiently high, let alone if that return happens to be negative. This is not the asset allocation process. This is the momentum process. The industry makes use of a substantial marketing budget, It clearly influences the valuations not only of individual securities but of entire sectors, and it dominates, for the time being, the investment process.

 

Other Remarks

  • Is modern risk control methodology actually serving to reduce risk or is it merely convincing professional investors to accept, perhaps unwittingly, another type of risk?
  • It should be noted that the real was not always the currency of Brazil. There were cruzeiros, there were cruzadoes, and now we have the real. That in itself should tell the reader something about the stability of the currency.
  • Historically, that is what emerging market debt was: questionable claims against governments.
  • Bonds should be thought of in the following way: they offer risk with no possibility of reward, especially if you are a taxable investor.

 

Other side effects of #pregnancy (running list)

Other side effects of #pregnancy (running list)

EDIT 3: December 12, 2016 12:32AM

  • Insomnia: I don’t think I have insomnia per se, but there have been many nights when I do not feel tired or feel too excited to sleep. Some of this is probably brought about by my constant need to use the bathroom, which leads to my next point…
  • Constant urge to pee: I am down to my last 3-4 weeks of pregnancy and am now needing to use the toilet around once every hour, depending on how hydrated I am. It is annoying. It also seems like a waste of water and toilet paper because my bladder can hold so little that it almost makes a trip to the bathroom not worth it. However, the pain (and potential damage) of holding it in scares me more than the utility bill and cost of TP.
  • Fetal movement: My baby moves a lot, and it is comforting and exciting, but it is also uncomfortable as the baby is growing larger and running out of room. Sometimes I feel out of breath from its stretches, mostly I feel the skin of my belly stretching, which can be uncomfortable. I can also coax my baby to move by scratching my belly, and I have noticed it moving/jolting when I first step into the shower and the stream of water hits my belly 🙂
  • Acid reflux: Worsening as the baby is growing, probably due to the increase in hormones as pregnancy is progressing. However, this does help curb my attraction to foods I’m not suppose to eat (e.g., processed foods like potato chips) during pregnancy anyway. Sometimes the acid reflux is strong enough to wake and keep me up at night, at which point I’d have to stumble out to the kitchen and make myself the ACV concoction (see below).
  • Sore/tired hips from sitting too long: As my joints are loosening to prep for childbirth, it becomes harder to rise from sitting in a chair for too long. I grunt and groan as I sit down and get up!
  • Fear of crowds: The Lion and I went to the mall the other day despite our distaste for visiting shopping centers during the holiday season, and my immediate instinct was to keep a wide berth from shoppers and children from fear of them bumping into me and my belly. Not sure if this was because I knew holiday shoppers can be merciless or if it was the mothering hormones kicking in.
  • Swollen ankles and feet: These have returned with a vengeance because I wore high heels yesterday and was probably dehydrated as well. Harmless for the most part but unattractive and slightly abnormal.
  • Posture restrictions: I have been trying to lay on my left side [when sleeping] or sit leaning forward in order to coax Baby over to the left side of my belly. Throughout pregnancy, B has enjoyed hanging out with its back to the front-right of my belly, but as we are nearing expected due date, the midwife recommended exercises and these positions to get B into a more ideal positioning for easier delivery. I am looking forward to being relieved of these positions because I miss sleeping on my back, and I miss reclining on the couch!

EDIT 2: September 22, 2016 11:47PM

  • Acid reflux: I had heard from girlfriends that despite not having acid reflux or heartburn ever in life before, they started experiencing it during pregnancy. My acid reflux has been relatively mild, and I wouldn’t consider it “heartburn,” usually just an acidic taste in the back of my throat. But it is annoying and uncomfortable enough to be noticed and sometimes keep me up at night. The nutritionist (who came and gave a talk one Saturday morning) had recommended taking some apple cider vinegar diluted in water, so I started drinking about 6oz of water with a splash of ACV (eyeballed because I was too lazy to get out the measuring spoon and then wash it after use) a little bit before bed. Surprisingly, it didn’t make me get up in the middle of the night to pee, and it did help to ease the acid reflux. Now, I drink that same amount whenever I feel the acid and/or before bed just in case.
  • Hemorrhoids: Prior to being pregnant, I would make dinners that consisted of a salad starter followed by a protein + veggie entree. When I had my decreased appetite a couple months ago, I stopped making the salads because I wasn’t hungry and because I physically felt I couldn’t eat that much (since I was feeling bloated anyway/because I feared acid reflux). The sudden decrease in veggies made my bowel movements much more difficult. I strained every time I had to go, and it was painful and resulted in bleeding. Fearing the descent into anal retentiveness, I began eating a small snack of raw veggies and dip because I remembered how this had eased my constipation earlier in pregnancy. Lo and behold, during the week that I made and ate this snack during the day, my trips to the bathroom were much more pleasant. This week, I ran out of sour cream and forgot to buy more, so I am suffering yet again. This is why it’s important to eat your veggies!!!
  • Bernhardt-Roth syndrome: This is a new one for me that just occurred in the last couple days. We recently relocated to a new house, and I have been on my feet many hours during the last few days watching the movers, unpacking, lining closets and shelves, laundering, washing, etc. etc., and it has taken a toll on my lower extremities. The bottom of my feet were very sore and hurt from standing so much, and yesterday evening, I noticed there was a patch of numb skin on the outer part of my right thigh. I didn’t think much of it, and it eventually faded away at bedtime, but when it resurfaced again this morning, I Googled it and called my midwife. Turns out, it is called meralgia paresthetica (or Bernhardt Roth syndrome), which is a condition that causes numbness, pain, tingly sensations, or burning in the outer thigh. It happens because there is too much pressure on the nerves of your leg. Right now, it feels like a cold burning sensation, like there’s an ice pack on my thigh (but not in a pleasant way…), and I can feel heavy pressure but not light touch. The nurse at my midwife’s office confirmed there has probably been too much pressure on the nerve 🙁 I am trying to perform as much of my duties as I can while sitting, and I’m trying to prop my feet up as much as possible. Of course, the extra weight from the baby doesn’t help. I’m hoping as I adjust to our new place and things get finished up, this unpleasant side effect will dissipate…
  • Swollen ankles (edema): Relatively common side effect but it was still jarring to see it on my own ankles!! I have chubby ankles now, ew.

EDIT 1: August 26, 2016 1:40PM

  • Eczema/skin update: The eczema soap I linked to above has really helped me a lot. Some of it may be psychological, but my belly is finally smooth again and free of sandpaper-y skin. Some of that may be due to the weather finally cooling down too… I love this soap though!
  • Fibroids – This was a scary one for me when I first heard about it. I hadn’t come across this term in any of the books I’d read so far, so it was a shock. Fibroids are noncancerous (99% of the time) tumors that develop in/on the uterus. My four were discovered during my 18 week ultrasound. My midwife reassured me that fibroid development is pretty normal (about 80% of women develop them by age 30) and shouldn’t interfere with the pregnancy/baby as long as it doesn’t grow too large (only in about 20% of cases does it cause complications). Based on my own research on the internet, it seems like the worst fibroids could do to pregnancy/childbirth is block the cervix or prevent the baby from getting into a head-down position, which may mean that I’d need to have a c-section to have the baby. Apparently, until I develop further symptoms (extreme abdominal pain, heavy bleeding), it shouldn’t be a big worry for me.

Original post: August 10, 2016 3:35PM

There’s a lot more involved in pregnancy than just belly and boobs getting bigger, as I’ve learned. This is my list of some of the unexpected symptoms I’ve experienced. Thank goodness for Google!

  • Pregnancy rhinitis – As estrogen and progesterone increases, so does the mucus in your nostrils. This was very noticeable in my first trimester, as I was going through a box of tissues a week. I need tissues for my runny nose constantly, and it was difficult to lay down and breathe comfortably to sleep. I ended up using more support under my pillow to help keep my head elevated at night, but I lost some valuable sleep. Eventually, the rhinitis just dissipated.
  • Sore and tender breasts/nipples – Definitely one of the first things I’d noticed. It was uncomfortable to dress/undress, and I had to take greater care in not accidentally hurting them (especially with sports bras and bralettes!). Again, E&P at work here! They aren’t as sore now during my second trimester, but I still prefer to sleep with a full coverage top or a cotton bralette because…
  • Protruding nipples – This is what makes avoiding them as you take off sports bras difficult and what is annoying about sleeping in a triangle-top nightie
  • Extreme fatigue – I knew that pregnant women needed more sleep, but I wasn’t expecting just how tired I would be! I was napping basically after every meal in addition to going to sleep earlier at night. I was also going to the bathroom throughout the night, which meant I needed daytime naps to fill in the nighttime gaps. I maintained light exercise (daily dog walking, aerial fitness a few times a week), but paced myself on daily chores and errands. Everything took a lot slower to complete…
  • Montgomery tubercles – These little pimple-like bumps on your nipples or areolas are the visual part of the areolar glands (which are glands that secrete oils to help keep your skin moisturized), which help to keep your nipple and areola lubricated and protected.
  • Itchy belly (eczema flare up) – As the pregnant woman’s belly is growing and stretching, the belly skin can dry up and become itchy. Similarly, the change in hormones can affect the severity of dermatitis. My eczema seems to be especially bad this summer, probably a combination of the heat, hormones, and not being able to use my steroid creams. I’ve avoided hot baths and heavy, scented lotions. My friend recently gave me some baby eczema soap, which has helped immensely. The soap is so amazing that sometimes I don’t even need to use lotion! Sometimes, when it gets really bad, I’ll also use a cold compress for 10-15 minutes, which helps a lot too.
  • Decrease in appetite – I’d always heard the phrase, “Eat for two, now that you’re pregnant!” but I just couldn’t! Interestingly enough, I seemed to have a decrease in appetite. Quite the surprise for The Lion because now there’s enough for him to eat until he’s full! 😉
  • Round ligament pain – Quite possibly my most unpleasant symptom right now. There are many thick ligaments that surround and support the uterus, one of them being the round ligament. As the womb grows, the ligaments need to stretch to accommodate the weight, thus causing you to feel some dull, ache-y, cramp-y pain. I notice this pain the most if I shift positions too quickly and also when I stand up from sitting for awhile. The discomfort is persistent, although not debilitating, and will apparently be around until after childbirth!! *cries

How Memes Get Twisted (#history, #language, #memes, #politics, #capitalism, #business, #RobberBarons)

How Memes Get Twisted (#history, #language, #memes, #politics, #capitalism, #business, #RobberBarons)

I recently removed my read copy of TJ Stiles The First Tycoon: The Epic Life of Cornelius Vanderbilt from the shelf and paged through the introduction. I enjoyed the book both in the way it was written and in learning of the life and times of this esteemed capitalist and thought it might be nearing time for a re-read as I am certain that I would appreciate certain details differently now than when I first read the book almost 7 years ago.

One passage stood out to me right away as evidence in favor of this supposition because I do not remember it at all:

His strength of will was famous indeed. Vanderbilt had first amassed wealth as a competitor in the steamboat business, cutting fares against established lines until he forced his rivals to pay him to go away. The practice led the New York Times, a quarter of a century before his death, to introduce a new metaphor into the American vernacular by comparing him to the medieval robber barons who took a toll from all passing traffic on the Rhine.

I was floored re-reading this (well, as floored as I could be in the dim moments before bedtime). If you’ve heard the “robber barons” meme in contemporary discourse, its typically trotted out as a catch-all word to disparage a person who is extremely wealthy, implying perhaps to a criminal degree not in the sense that the wealth was acquired illegally, but that no one should be allowed to be so wealthy. This is the latest evolution in the use of the meme. Maybe even five years ago, the meme was used to mean a large corporation or wealthy person who was exerting undue influence in society, against the social mores of the Left, synonymous with “capitalist pig.” The tie to “robber barons” was the implication that there was something overtly political, and unfair, about the activities of a person or for-profit institution with so much wealth.

Going back still further, the meme seemed to be a muckraking term favored by the Progressives on their march, associating any type of large industrial scale as seedy, sinister and exploitative– not captains of industry, but robber barons who achieve their size and wealth not by solving the world’s problems, but by creating arbitrary opportunities to siphon off resources by gumming up the works.

But according to this quote from Stiles, the meme originated in Vanderbilt’s heyday (early to mid-1800s) to describe his actions, and the actions which inspired the response were not the actions of a monopolist or large-scale corporate monolith as has become fashionable, but the opposite! At this time, Vanderbilt was the scrappy upstart pestering the “established” businesses and giving them their first taste of competition, and he was being pilloried for this by the establishment press. Today, businesses and businessmen are attacked for raising prices, whereas Vanderbilt was being attacked for cutting them– finding cheaper ways to provide the same service just wasn’t the “gentlemanly” thing to do. We see here the origin of the meme is a lot closer to the “corporate raider” personality of the 1980s than the “corporate titan CEO” of the 1990s or 2000s.

 

Review – The Secret Of Childhood (#education, #childhood, #Montessori, #philosophy)

Review – The Secret Of Childhood (#education, #childhood, #Montessori, #philosophy)

The Secret of Childhood

by Maria Montessori, published 1936, 1982

If you’re looking for a “how-to” on the Montessori Method, this isn’t it. What this book is is an exploration of the philosophical foundations of Maria Montessori’s view of the child in society, based upon some of her historical experiences and study of related social research.

Although this book was published long ago, Montessori’s revelation appears to be, by and large, still a secret. Sadly, it is not just a cultural secret. Even in the West, and particularly the United States, where her ideas seem to have the strongest following, the parenting and educational mainstreams seem to have done little to absorb Montessori’s insights into both theory and practice. If Montessori was correct in her discovery, then it says something both appalling and demoralizing about the failure of society to integrate such important truths. So, what is this “secret”?

The secret of childhood is that it is a period of time during which the child works, not to assimilate himself into society, but to assimilate himself into himself. We hear echoes of Max Stirner (1806-1856, Germany) in Maria Montessori (1870-1952, Italy), for example, compare Stirner,

school is to be life and there, as outside of it, the self-revelation of the individual is to be the task… only freedom is equality… we need from now on a personal education (not the impressing of convictions)… knowledge must die and rise again as will and create itself anew each day as a free person.

to Montessori,

Adults look upon a child as something empty that is to be filled through their own efforts, as something inert and helpless for which they must do everything, as something lacking an inner guide and in constant need of direction… the adult makes himself the touchstone of what is good and evil in the child. He is infallible, the model upon which the child must be molded… An adult who acts this way… unconsciously suppresses the development of the child’s own personality.

or to Montessori’s son, Mario, from the preface,

Man has discovered flight, he has discovered atomic energy, but he has failed to discover himself.

or to Margaret Stephenson, a Montessori instructor, from the foreword,

How can one learn through group play what it means to be a mother, father, space pilot, dog, when one does not yet know what it mean’s to be one’s self?

This psychic development of the child, a “universal” as Montessori puts it, into an individuated person, the man, unfolds along a predetermined path dictated by nature.

Childhood constitutes the most important element in an adult’s life, for it is in his early years that a man is made.

That is not to say that man’s childhood development is deterministic, but that there is a logic and a succession of predictable stages and events to it, much like a caterpillar becomes a cocoon and then a butterfly.

The place an animal will have in the universe can be seen at birth. We know that one animal will be peaceful since it is a lamb, that another will be fierce because it is a lion cub, that one insect will toil without ceasing since it is an ant, and that another will do nothing but sing in solitude since it is a locust. And just as the lower animals, so the newly born child has latent psychic drives characteristic of its species… A child develops not simply as a member of the human species, but as a person.

And the implication of this fact is that the child, in his childhood, has special needs during this period of development which will allow this process of psychic development to occur without obstruction or injury, ranging from the suitability of his environment, to the tools and instruments he has at his use, to the way he is interacted with and communicated with by adults, who he sees as omnipotent, almost magical, beings of power and authority. (Isn’t it funny to stop for a moment and consider how sure of ourselves and the nature and limits of the adults around us we are, and how truly mysterious any of this was when we first made our way into the world as small children? Just ponder that for a moment if you’re having trouble grasping the significance of Montessori’s “secret”.)

What are some of these differences and needs between children and adults? The first is understanding the significance of work to each. For adults, work is a means to obtain a fixed and known goal, and the general idea is to work efficiently, that is, to get the highest yield in terms of outcome for the smallest amount of resources and energy expended. But for children, the purpose of work is to learn about the self– work is not performed to obtain an income, or to be fed, or to avoid a threat, but rather work is performed to experience the psychic benefit of knowing how to perform the work.

An adult walks to reach some external goal and he consequently heads straight for it… An infant, one the other hand, walks to perfect his own proper functions, and consequently his goal is something creative within himself.

In working, a child applies their intellect to the world, they come to understand their power and ability as a person to influence and change the world more to their liking, a fact that mature adults take for granted.

His hands under the guidance of his intellect transform this environment and thus enable him to fulfill his mission in the world.

Because of this, a child may be seen to work “aimlessly”, or “inefficiently”, or “incompetently”, but this observation is made from the point of view of an adult which is not applicable to the child and their psychic purpose in working. Montessori relates how adults who are finished working are typically tired and in need of rest or recreational stimulation, whereas children who are finished working are exhilarated and self-satisfied at accomplishing whatever it was inside of their psyche that compelled them to perform their work.

Another need is the need for separate property. Children exist in a world created by adults, for the benefit of adults and adults can be capricious with their property and arrangements in ways that are befuddling and intimidating to children. Everything in the child’s world (for example, in the home) belongs to the adults– the furniture, which is sized for the adults; the dishware and glassware and silverware, which is sized for the adults; the books, the clothes, the walls, the art, even the pets!

[An adult is tempted to overvalue his material possessions when they’re being handled by a child, such as with a glass of water being carried by his child.] The adult who does this may even be very wealthy and intent upon increasing his fortunes many times over in order to make his son still more wealthy than himself. But for the moment he esteems a glass as something of greater value than the child’s activity and seeks to prevent its being broken [and so interferes needlessly with the child’s development in stopping him from his activity with the glass].

Montessori describes the adults as “kings”, who may of occasion grant the child a right to temporary use of the king’s property, but never the right to possess the property themselves.

An adult, however high or low he may be, is always a powerful being in comparison with a child.

The child can feel as if it lives only at the mercy and privilege of the king. The child is constantly being instructed and informed how to use something, what to touch and what not to touch, to keep away from this or to go be near that. The child needs some of its own things, in sizes and qualities specific to its uses, so that it may explore and understand and “work” in the world around itself without constantly being in conflict with the adults.

An adult is constantly interrupting the child and breaking into his environment. This powerful being directs the child’s life without ever consulting the child himself. And this lack of consideration makes the child think that his own activities are of no value.

A final need is for adults to appreciate the differences in perceptive faculties of children, who, as Montessori describes, pay attention to details not just different in magnitude, but in kind.

A child’s psychic personality is far different from our own, and it is different in kind and not simply degree.

Adults are accustomed to looking at the world and paying attention to details in a particular way based upon their individual goals, ambitions, professional outlook, educational level, etc. etc. But children often pay attention to details quite differently, and in ways that conflict with adult perceptions or treat them as non-sensical or unimportant.

Children an adults are in possession of two different mental outlooks… Adults frequently attempt to point out ordinary objects to three- or four-year-old children as if they had never seen anything before. But this must have the same effect on a child as one shouting at another whom he thinks to be deaf [who is not so].

An adult may wish to draw a child’s attention to the beach and the ocean, but the child is fascinated by a tiny bug crawling across the sand. Adults are often quick to pass judgment on the child in these moments, as if they are “wrong” for not being interested in what the adult wants them to be interested in, or even questioning their intelligence or development when they seem incapable of taking such an interest. But as with work, observation serves a different purpose for the child than for the adult– it is not to satisfy his desire for recreation, or to attend to a productive goal, but to stimulate his psyche according to these innate, natural needs of his development.

Here are some other interesting quotes I collected:

  • The child is a universal… There is, in reality, only the child of all times, of all races, heir to tradition, hander-on of history, crucible of culture, pathway to peace.
  • The absorption of culture, of customs, of ideas, ideals, of sentiments, feelings, emotions, religion, take place during the period of the absorbent mind, in the child from zero to six.
  • We should try to understand that there is an intelligible reason behind a child’s activities. He does nothing without some reason, some motive… A child does not simply run, jump and handle things without purpose and thus create havoc about the house… Knowledge always precedes movement. When a child wishes to do something, he knows beforehand what it is. [A very Misesian idea!]
  • An adult’s avarice, which makes him jealously defend whatever he owns, is concealed under “the duty of properly educating one’s child.” [What Stirner would refer to as a “spook”, or a mental hobgoblin an adult uses to frighten his own psyche and thus prevent himself for taking ownership over his actions.]
  • When a child moves slowly, an adult feels compelled to intervene by substituting his own activity for that of the child. But in acting thus an adult, instead of assisting a child in his psychic needs, substitutes himself in all the actions which the child would like to carry out by himself.
  • What an adult tells a child remains engraved on his mind as if it had been cut in marble.
  • When a child is disobedient or has a tantrum an adult should always call to mind the conflict and try to interpret it as a defense of some unknown vital activity necessary for the child’s development.
  • Toys furnish a child with an environment that has no particular goal and, as a consequence, they cannot provide it with any real mental concentration but only illusions.
  • Before anyone can assume a responsibility, he must be convinced that he is the master of his own actions and have confidence in himself.

I enjoyed reading this book, it stimulated MY psyche and made an impression upon me in terms of how much more there is to think and know about this subject than what I possess currently. I also enjoyed the archaicness of it, Montessori writes like a civilized person of years gone by, speaking articulately and frankly about the world around her without apology and with much conviction and passion for her subject, something which doesn’t seem to exist anymore in our world of sterile, clinical academics reluctant to take a position on anything of import. But it was not always an easy read and it was fairly repetitious. I will likely come back to the book at some point to re-read certain passages that I found hard to appreciate without an experience of raising a child myself. Yet, I wouldn’t recommend this as an “essential” title for someone looking to up their parenting game unless I already knew they were more philosophical in their approach.

3/5

 

But Who Will… Destroy Organic Urban Communities? (#economics, #fallacies, #development, #BigCities, #politics)

But Who Will… Destroy Organic Urban Communities? (#economics, #fallacies, #development, #BigCities, #politics)

From the “But who will…?” file of pro-government fallacies comes this latest doozy on how the development of the Eisenhower Expressway destroyed multiple ethnic enclaves in Chicago:

If you live in Chicago and you drive a car, you’ve probably been stuck in traffic on the Eisenhower Expressway. Oak Park resident Jillian Zarlenga sure has. “I spent a great deal of time on the Eisenhower inching towards the Harlem Avenue exit,” she says.

Sitting in traffic jams gave Jillian time to think — especially when she was working as a United Church of Christ chaplain at Elmhurst Hospital. “I had a lot of time sitting on the Eisenhower examining this huge area of land, thinking there must have been a lot of people that lived here before, and I was just curious where they all went,” she says. She also wondered about all of the buildings that were torn down. What was lost? These musings prompted her to pose this question to Curious City: “What happened to the people displaced by the Eisenhower Expressway?”

Short answer: Who cares? Make way for Progress!

Long answer: read the article. Sure to get those same Progressives in a tizzy.

 

Brief Thoughts On The Reggio Emilia Approach, Part II (#education, #ReggioEmilia, #childhood, #school)

Brief Thoughts On The Reggio Emilia Approach, Part II (#education, #ReggioEmilia, #childhood, #school)

I read a bit more in the Bringing Reggio Emilia Home book last night. I don’t know if it’s because I started reading Maria Montessori’s The Secret of Childhood which to me seems to hold an antithetical philosophical viewpoint, or I am just coming against the discomfort of a new idea, but some of the anecdotes that were shared seemed a bit bizarre. The author captured the thoughts of one of the local teachers, “Vea”, and I have selectively quoted them below:

I put a Plexiglass mirror out on the ground outside so that we could walk on the mirror… We walked on the sky and in some way, we were able to touch it… I think it’s important that the children enter into this “theater of the virtual reality” so that they can move in a different way according to the provocations that you give… The children walked on the clouds and “flew” with their arms as they pretended to be angels and airplanes… the games they played with the slides [images of the weather patterns observed] and this painting are filled with significance… we could say that these children have made a first collective work born of a common experience.

In this anecdote, Vea is talking about an exercise she created with various art media to tap into the children’s sense of “awe” and “wonder” about the world around them. Interpreting this charitably, children have strong creative faculties and their good-hearted teacher is creating circumstances where they can really let their imagination run.

But is it that simple?

In reality, nobody can walk on the sky. Angels don’t exist, and children aren’t airplanes, they fly in airplanes, which are specific physical objects with real physical properties that allow them to stay airborne despite gravity and being heavier than air. How does this work? This exercise doesn’t seem to touch upon any of this as it is related. One argument is that the children might be too young to appreciate physics. But does that mean they should be led to imagine that physics doesn’t exist, instead?

And what is a “collective work born of common experience”? The word “provocations” is probably a literal translation of the Italian cognate “provocazioni”, which has several meanings similar to the English, including “challenge, upset, anger”. I am thinking of the word “antagonize”, why are children being antagonized? Even the meaning “challenge” is confusing. Negotiating reality as a neophyte seems like challenge enough, does a teacher need to add to it by “challenging” children to walk on the sky or fly through it like angels? There seems to be plenty going on down here to contend with as it is.

Here is another anecdote:

“Let’s put in our yells!” [said one child, about what he wanted to try storing in a jar the children were given during one exercise] because they were excited and yelling. It was a lovely idea, so they yelled inside the jar closing it right away with its cover. Then, every once in a while they raised the cover ever so slightly, putting their ear to the opening to see if they could hear the yells that they had put inside.

As a wistful happenstance of young children playing, this scene is endearing, almost comical. Clearly, yells can not be contained in a jar and listened to later, that isn’t how sound works. It is “creative” in the abstract sense of a weird alternate reality book or movie where physics doesn’t exist as it does in our universe. But as something taking place in an educational environment, encouraged by teachers and with no “questioning” involved, or attempts to get behind the play to the real phenomena of voice and sound and recorded media, it takes on a more sinister appeal. What is practicing such behavior doing but confusing the mind? What are the children learning from one another here, but idle fantasies and make believe?

Earlier in the section, the book talked about the famed “Hundred Languages of Children”. It turns out this is a reference to different art materials that children can use to illustrate their experiences. Acetate, wire, clay, paint, crayon, etc., these are all media that children are instructed in the atelier (studio) to use to express their shared memories of various experiences. Again, it sounds innocent, what could be wrong with teaching children art and how to manipulate various materials for self-expression? But a “hundred languages” also has a polylogist ring to it, not a polyglot one, because in early childhood children are just acquiring languages skills in their mother tongue, and while it may be clear to them what they mean in their artistic acts of self-expression, it is much less likely that this meaning will be clear to others, such as other children, teachers, parents or adults. In fact, art is one of those things that is seemingly always up to interpretation, whereas verbal linguistics are relatively straight forward. Emphasizing self-expression through art seems to lead to a, “Think what you want to think, believe what you want to believe” kind of approach to reality and communicating with others.

But I am only two chapters into this, so I guess I don’t want to get TOO hysterical in my critical analysis!

I also watched “The Reggio Emilia Approach At Bennett Day School” on YouTube last night, seeking more information about this approach in practice. The video ended up being more about the history of the philosophy, which was helpful. A few anecdotal items of data stood out to me in the presentation:

  • The townsfolk of Reggio Emilia specifically designed their approach “so that they’d never have to deal with fascism again”
  • The local municipality once considered cutting funding for the preschool programs, and the parents became hysterical and lobbied the government to maintain the spending
  • The head marm narrating in the video described the “citizenship” focus of the Reggio Emilia approach by citing the way townsfolk became engaged in local political debates at the town councils, where she emphasized “everyone was free to argue and disagree, but eventually they reached agreement”; she cited this as a really positive example of the civic-spirited genesis of the approach

Here is the video:

And here is how the Bennett Day School describes its “Progessive education” ideals:

Based on the beliefs of John Dewey first published in the late 19th century, Progressive Education is a philosophy built around cooperative learning environments carefully constructed by teachers in order to build understanding through meaningful, relevant practices.

In a progressive education environment, students “learn by doing,” engaging in activities and lessons which help them develop the problem solving and critical thinking skills that are essential to participation in a modern democratic society. Rather than focusing on rote memorization, Progressive Education focuses on social learning and collaboration to achieve relevant, authentic goals.

While influenced by student interest and engagement, Progressive Education asks teachers to guide students through the process of learning, modeling and encouraging the development of skills and knowledge that are necessary to effective citizenship. Students in a progressive school are not merely passive consumers of information, but active and engaged members of a learning community that seeks to develop within all its members (both adults and children) a spirit of participation and engagement that will seamlessly translate to the larger global society.

 

 

The Oath Of The Brand (#loyalty, #politics, #education, #children, #America)

The Oath Of The Brand (#loyalty, #politics, #education, #children, #America)

Imagine for a moment that you work for a big company (maybe you do), and that at the start of every work day, you and the other people in your department gather around a large copy of the company logo, place your hand over your heart and recite the “Oath of the Brand” like so:

I give my oath

to this brand

the greatest company in all the land,

and to the management

much like it, grand;

one organization, one vision, never to be divested of its capital,

with jobs and security for all.

What might you think of this company, and its desire to instill its values via a hypnotic morning oath like this? Would you think this company would be populated by workers who can think for themselves and question the decisions of management when they’re called for? Would you think management expects to be challenged and “kept honest” by its workers? Does it seem odd that there is no mention of customers and the need to serve them faithfully? Would this company seem to operate a bit like a cult?

Of course by now you’ve realized that I have simply parodied the American “Pledge of Allegiance”, recited mindlessly by millions of school children in public institutions every single morning, and by millions of government functionaries and politicians at certain solemn occasions. Why do our public schools do this? Why can’t our political system earn its loyalty through efficiency, effectiveness and good works, rather than by neurolinguistically programming developing minds too immature to notice they’re being manipulated? And why do parents tolerate such madness?

In case you’ve been out of school for awhile, here is the actual Pledge of Allegiance:

I pledge allegiance,

to the flag

of the United States of America,

and to the Republic

for which it stands;

one nation, under god, indivisible,

with liberty and justice for all.

As defined by the pledge, liberty and justice are clearly codewords for the good feelings one gets from honoring one’s fealty to the flag. And the “Republic” is not the country, but a particular system of political management of the country– there are other possible ways to politically manage the country, but the Pledge doesn’t really permit such thinking, it demands obedience. I read something a few months ago wherein a Progressive author was lamenting the way “right wingers” were now referring to public schools as “government schools,” the concern being that a public school implies something verging on objectivity, while a government school is what one finds in other, more authoritarian regimes, where the curriculum is strongly centered around building loyalty to the party in power. But asking small children to recite a pledge to their political management seems like a good place to start a case for arguing that what we have in this country are, in fact, government schools.

This doesn’t work for me. I don’t want my children’s education to include inculcated obedience to the state– I want my children to be able to think for themselves on this one. So this is another reason I am not interested in putting my children in public schools.

The history of the Pledge of Allegiance is pretty interesting.

And for a snarky treatment of the subject, try this skit by the “Whitest Kids U Know”:

“This is not a form of brainwashing.”

The Real Threat To Our Data Security (#hacking, #Russia, #USA, #security)

The Real Threat To Our Data Security (#hacking, #Russia, #USA, #security)

It appears the Russian government has the most sophisticated data hacking team in the world. If the headlines are to be believed, Russia not only hacked the DNC (and possibly Hillary Clinton’s own private email server running from her home in upstate New York), but they have hacked private medical records of US athletes. Edward Snowden, the notorious traitor weasel, is but a mere finger-puppet of the Russian state. And even if Russia doesn’t directly have its tentacles in Donald Trump — who confusingly wants to build an even bigger military to challenge Russia and seems furious that Obama “let” Russia annex the Crimea on his watch — it seems clear the Russian hackers are working overtime to corrupt American voting machines to ensure Trump’s election.

Will Russia’s intervention via criminal data attacks ever reach a limit? Have they no honor, no dignity?

Enough is enough! I say. It is time for every good, true patriotic American to stand up to the evil Russian Bear and say, “We won’t stand for any agency or institution besides our own domestic spy and national security apparatus, such as the NSA and FISA courts, listening in on our phone calls, rifling through our emails and hacking our data and private records!” After all, if they didn’t infiltrate our communications and information, they’d have no way to protect us from the Russians trying to do the exact same thing.