Monday, May 21, 2007

Setting High Standards For Yourself


Harold W. Stevenson and James W. Stigler prove convincingly in The Learning Gap: Why Our Schools Are Failing and What We Can Learn from Japanese and Chinese Education that one of the main reasons the Confucian countries far outperform the United States in achievement tests is because they set high standards for their students. In addition, they teach to the middle in classes and they do not place their students on different tracks. Everyone is expected to perform to their utmost ability and attain their highest potential. Discovery learning and child-centered "progressive" techniques that liberals love are eschewed.

Incidently, the Confucian countries in education use methods that our military and athletics teams and coaches use, which is why they are so successful in academics while the United States dominates both militarily and in sports culture and the Olympics. The enemy to success has always been "progressivism" and liberalism. The common simile of liberalism being like acid, destroying everything it touches, is true.

While living in Korea, some of the things I most respected about Koreans were their competitive spirit, high standards, and how they would push themselves to constantly improve their lives. My Korean friends would always be learning something new, whether it be tennis, Asian painting, or foreign languages.

In short, Americans should push for much higher standards in their own lives. One of our top goals should be to constantly improve ourselves intellectually, spiritually, and physically. Here are some high standards that everyone can set for themselves:

Intellectual
  • Stop watching television or limit yourself to only a couple of hours a week. When I lived in Bangkok for a year, I had no TV in my apartment, and it was such a blessing. I could accomplish so much more without the distraction. Even now, I don't care for TV at all.
  • Instead of watching television, learn several foreign languages. It is an urban myth that children learn foreign languages better than adults. The truth is that adults are far more efficient learners of foreign languages than kids and can learn them much faster. The only area that kids beat out adults is in pronunication. It is difficult for adults to learn to speak another language with native pronunciation. But in all other aspects--speaking, listening, reading, and writing--adults outperform kids. While it might take kids six years to learn a language to intermediate level, adults can do it in less than a year.
  • So start learning foreign languages and set strong goals for yourself. If you are 30 years old, say that by the time you are 35, you will know fluently three Romance languages and two Asian languages and stick to these goals. These goals are not impossible. I've recently taught myself Italian to the intermediate level in about six months. Definitely learn our common Western language of Latin.
  • Some excellent texts I find for learning foreign languages are the Living Language series. It is what they use in Fairfax County Adult Education classes, the large county of one million inhabitants that I live in. They are cheap, excellent quality, and effective. The CD's are more expensive, but you can easily check them out from the library. University of Hawaii press has good material for Asian languages.
  • Purchase Diane Ravitch's terrific book The Language Police. The book is wonderful and enlightening, but best of all is the Ravitch-Atkinson Sampler of Classic Literature in the appendix, with notes about the merits of all the great works selected. Set a goal that you will read every book listed. Classic literature will provide much fulfillment in your life, especially to those who have been exposed to too many postmodernists.
  • Explore our great American cultural heritage in music. Arhoolie Records is a great place to start. We have such magnificent cultural roots in music. Almost all great music started in the South. Learn about our Americana traditions. Some excellent singers who have consistently explored American tradition in music are Maria Muldaur (gem after gem of blues and jazz albums in the 90's and 00's) and the wonderful French Canadian singers Kate and Anna McGarrigle (both American and Canadian folk traditions).
  • Set a goal to travel to various countries. Pick a region, such as Asia, you would like to specialize in and explore that area in depth.

Spiritual
  • It is very important to be spiritually healthy. The Rosary is magnificent and extraordinarily powerful Catholic tool of prayer. I've seen a bumper sticker stating that it is the "atomic bomb" of prayer. Please try it and say it every day.
  • Thankfully, in traditional dioceses such as the Arlington Diocese, where I live, many churches have 24 hour Eucharistic adoration. Take advantage of it.
  • Finally, go to Confession at least once every couple of months. Cut out all sexual distractions and immoral actions.
  • Separate yourself from those who lead you down the wrong track in life.
  • Attend a Roman Catholic mass that is more traditional in nature, with good music and a reverant liturgy. Again, the Arlington Diocese, thankfully, has many excellent conservative priests, particularly the younger ones under 45. But if you are in a more liberal diocese, you can still seek out more conservative parishes.

Physical
  • Try to go to the health club or gym at least twice a week. Luckily, my employer has a large gym that is only $8 a month to join, so I go twice a week.
  • Don't drink or smoke. It is far better to be sober than drunk and smoking enslaves you. If you smoke with some willpower it is not difficult to quit.
  • There is no excuse to be overweight. It is simply a matter of how many calories you put into your body versus how many your burn off. Cut out all snacks and eat a light meal for dinner.

Don't become enamored with liberal shallow pop culture. Stick with these high intellectual, spiritual, and physical goals. Discipline is the key to leading a life of right action. Unfortunately, in most "progressive" schools today, intellectual, spiritual, and physical discipline and high expectations are nowhere to be found.

40 comments:

Anonymous said...

You are so full of it Gabe. Alcoholism and obesity are diseases - show some compassion and tolerance for once.

Anonymous said...

I think it is a great post Gabe. My nephew is graduating from high school this week and I think I will print it for him to read (if that's okay with you!)

P.S. I found your blog through your link on your Hot Air comments.

P.S.S. I am also a Hokie - I commented on Giovanni - gave you the link to her violent poems.

Gabe said...

Anonymous 412- Thank you very much for the comments and the link about Giovanni and her violent poems. I wrote Carolyn Rude, the Department chair, complaining about Giovanni's "poem" about the massacre. She wrote a nice email in reply but basically stating that I was the only one out of 250 emails that disliked the poem, which shows how out of touch most of the English professors are down there. I then replied to that email with a copy of one of the violent poems, questioning whether Cho could have been negatively influenced by Giovanni's violence. I never heard back. They are in serious denial about Giovanni because she is the campus celebrity. She has infallibility.

By the way, the alumni get a newletter twice a year from the English department. This semester's just came in the mail. They didn't have the normal newsletter, but rather a copy of Nikki Giovanni's poem and a two page letter from Carolyn Rude about the "tragedy." I want to send right back with a copy of Nikki Giovanni's violent poem in which she describes how she wants to kill Jews.

I knew about three good conservative professors in the English department. Many were liberal but not radical. Now, though, the department seems quite radical. When I was down there, the student body at Tech seemed pretty conservative overall.

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