Archive for March, 2010

“time to give back?”

Monday, March 29th, 2010

Easter week may not be the best time for this bit of opinion, but I am going to risk it anyway.

A good-looking older businessman on TV the other night said he had had a good career, made a good deal of money and now it was time to retire. He was grateful to his customers, his city and his country and he made a point of saying “now it was time to give back.”  A curious phrase when you think of it.

Unless he was a crook or crack-dealer presumably he had made his money by providing some useful goods or services to his customers. Apparently however he had also unwittingly bought into a common opinion among socialists that profits are like stealing. And now it was time to “give back” some of the loot.

No question, socialism does have a better public relations face than capitalism. The socialist vision is clear and inspiring, to have people work together unselfishly for the common good. This is in contrast to the capitalist notion where the individual profits by providing useful goods or services and in the process makes a profit (or a good salary) for him or herself. If the profit (or salary) gets very large, this is often seen as greed.

In my DVD program CAPITALISM AND DEMOCRACY I explain the differences this way.

“Despite the seeming triumph of capitalism (and democracy as well) on the world stage, there is strong opposition to capitalism in many parts of the world, including the western world where it originated.

“One of the major problems of capitalism is that it does not automatically bring to mind  romantically utopian hopes and dreams. To many sensitive and intelligent people it smacks of crudity, selfishness, greed, and a ruthless competition that rewards the bully and punishes the weak. And it fosters, some claim, an environmentally and morally destructive hedonism and consumer driven excess.

“Socialism (in theory) gets a better press. In practice, however, full-blown socialist societies like the Soviet Union, China, Cambodia, Cuba and North Korea have not only been the  most brutal and ruthless tyrants, they have also been the world’s worst polluters.”

And in my new program to be released in about six months, THE COLD WAR, I explain basic reasons why the Soviet and Chinese experiments with radical socialism failed:

“Underlying the direct causes (of the Soviet collapse) there was and is a basic flaw in communist and socialist theory about human nature. Free-market capitalism assumes that humans usually act in self-interest and that diversity of talents and rewards leads to progress for all, so long as private property, free trade and free markets are given a chance to work their magic.

“Democracy insists that the individual human being has rights and privileges that need to be acknowledged and protected, that freedom of speech, of religion and of the press are essential to a civilized society.

“On the whole both democracy and capitalism say self-interest, diversity of talents and individual rights are good things. And finally both democracy and capitalism are pragmatic, not utopian. That is, they are open to change and to new ideas and do not have a grand fixed vision-of-the-future, nor a dogmatic set of rules on how to get there.

“Socialism, on the other hand, does tend to be utopian. It envisions a future where everyone is equal and near-perfect justice is the norm. Socialism assumes that humans are equal and altruistic by nature and can and will be their natural good-seeking selves once capitalism is abolished. Socialism stresses that community needs should take priority over individual rights, that private property should be strictly limited if not abolished, and that there should be equal outcomes as well as equal opportunities. (In communist Cuba today, for instance, a brain surgeon and a day laborer receive the same salary–as well as the same ration cards.) Socialism asserts that people can and should be unselfish, that they should sacrifice their private concerns for the public good. And socialism preaches that in the future a new man and a new woman freed of petty greed and self-interest and dedicated only to the common good will emerge.”

For more detail on the capitalism side, see the program reviewed below:

Capitalism and Democracy (Democracy: The Basics Series). DVD. 50 min with tchr’s. guide, quiz. Hawkhill Assocs. 2008, 2009 release. ISBN 1-55979-222-1. $109.

Gr 9 Up—While many individuals may assume that capitalism and democracy are only possible when mated with each other, this well-crafted program presents a comprehensive examination of the relationship between the two theories. Consisting of two distinct divisions, the nicely paced and superbly narrated film reviews the historical development of both the economic theory of capitalism and the governmental concept of democracy and explains how capitalism and democracy are connected today. The historical account begins at the earliest stages of human society and smoothly progresses to today’s complex world with hints at what might occur in the future throughout the world. A rich variety of artwork, video, and photographs help illustrate the connections between capitalism and democracy and enhance the impact of the presentation. New terms are subtitled as they are introduced. There are two interactive review tools for post-viewing use. The guided questions option reviews key points to generate discussion, while the mastery quizzes focus on essential topics and themes from the program. While most teachers will find these assessment devices lacking in substance, their inclusion is a nice bonus. A valuable resource.—Dwain Thomas, formerly Lake Park High School, Roselle, IL

Bill Stonebarger, Owner/President Hawkhill

P.S. This program is listed at $109. In our special 2010 sale you can purchase it at a 70% discount for just $32.70. See our web site: www.hawkhill.com

truth with a capital T

Saturday, March 20th, 2010

George W. Bush is not wildly popular nowadays. It was not always so. I am republishing here a Hawkhill News that I wrote five years ago, just after Bush’s 2nd Inaugural Address. I think it still has  relevance today.

President Bush used the word “freedom” 24 times in his 2nd Inaugural Address. Whether you agree with his means or not, it is hard to disagree with his end—a world of free nations. A world of free people. To my thinking one of the best ways to pursue this end is through a dramatic expansion and improvement in science education world-wide. As a wise writer once said, “You shall know the truth, and the truth shall make you free.”

And what human activity has a firmer grasp on truth than science.

Aha! There is the catch. Truth with a capital T (whether it comes from religion, politics or science) is just the kind of truth we don’t need. This is the kind of truth that for many sad centuries people have been killing one about. One group, that is, thinks they have the Truth, while their adversaries are just as certain that they have the Truth.

What kind of truth then does make us free?

Answer: the kind of truth (with a small “t”) that science at its best gives and promotes.

Science has two sides. One side I call the power part, technology that is. This is the side that can lead to power (and wealth). Unfortunately it can also support tyrannical governments as it did in the 20th century in Germany, in the Soviet Union and as it does today in much of the Middle East (oil, dirty bombs,.kalishnikovs, etc.)

But technology is only half of science. The other half I call the wonder half, the Soul of Science. This is the side of science that leads to tolerance, to wisdom, and to freedom and to democracy. This is the side of science that the jurist Learned Hand was thinking of when he said “the spirit of liberty is the spirit that is not quite sure it is right.” Or that the Nobel prize-winning physicist Richard Feynman was talking about when he said that we should above all teach “doubt.”

In Feynman’s book “What Do You Care What Other People Think?” he explains the relation of science to democracy this way.

“Through all ages of our past, people have tried to fathom the meaning of life. They have realized that if some direction or meaning could be given to our actions, great human forces would be unleashed. So, very many answers have been given to the question of the meaning of it all. But the answers have been of all different sorts, and the proponents of one answer have looked with horror at the actions of the believers in another–horror, because from a disagreeing point of view all the great potentialities of the race are channeled into a false and confining blind alley. In fact, it is from the history of the enormous monstrosities created by false belief that philosophers have realized the apparently infinite and wondrous capacities of human beings. The dream is to find the open channel.

“If we take everything into account–not only what the ancients knew, but all of what we know today that they didn’t know–then I think we must frankly admit that we do not know.

“But, in admitting this, we have probably found the open channel.

“This is not a new idea: this is the idea of the age of reason. This is the philosophy that guided the men who made the democracy that we live under. The idea that no one really knew how to run a government led to the idea that we should arrange a system by which new ideas could be developed, tried out, and tossed out if necessary, with more new ideas brought in—a trial-and-error system.”

How best to teach this soul of science to young students in high school and college is the tough part. Certainly one way not to do it is the way many schools in Islamic countries choose. They hope to teach and get the benefits of science on the technology side without letting the wisdom of science challenge their fundamental religious dogmas. In the worst of their schools the students study only the Koran. Unfortunately this approach is also present to a lesser degree in some fundamentalist schools in the west, including the United States, where the Bible is considered the final authority not only on all moral questions but on scientific questions as well.

One of my own modest suggestions for all schools is to spend far more time teaching the history of science than we have in the past. All three of the major science curriculum projects– AAAS Project 2061, NSTA’s Scope, Sequence and Coordination of Secondary School Science and The National Science Education Standards—strongly urge schools to teach more about the history of science.

The more students learn about how we found out about atoms, about stars and galaxies, about germs, about genes, about weather and climate, about animals and plants and ecosystems, about our own bodies and brains and emotions, the less susceptible they will be to people and to movements that claim to know it all. The more they will respect the power of evidence. The more they will respect the virtues of tolerance, of doubt, and of ignorance. The more they will realize the power of free inquiry. And finally, the more they will appreciate the value of freedom.

This integration of science history with the nuts and bolts of modern science technology is central to our Keys to Scientific Literacy Series of videos and DVDs.. Each member of the series has two parts. Part One relates the history of how the concepts were discovered in human history. Part Two explains the state-of-the-science today. See our web site catalog above for more information on programs like THE ATOM, ECOSYSTEMS, TOXIC WASTES, NUCLEAR POWER, THE GENE, EVOLUTION, SCIENTIFIC METHODS AND VALUES and many more.

A few more good quotes for the bulletin board:

“Blessed is he who learns how to engage in inquiry, with no impulse to harm his countrymen or to pursue wrongful actions, but perceives the order of immortal and ageless nature, how it is structured.” Euripides. 406 B.C.E.

“Nothing could be more obvious than that the Earth is stable and unmoving, and that we are in the center of the Universe. Modern Western science takes its beginning from the denial of this common-sense axiom.” Daniel J. Boorstin, The Discoverers.

“I seem to be a verb” Buckminster Fuller

“I wouldn’t have seen it if I hadn’t believed it.” Anonymous

“Hell, if I could explain it to the average person it wouldn’t have won the Nobel Prize.” Richard Feynman after winning the Nobel Prize.

“Don’t always follow the crowd, because nobody goes there anymore. It’s too crowded.” Yogi Berra

“No matter how much evidence exists that seers do not exist, suckers will pay for the existence of seers.” J. Scott Armstrong.

“It has been for me a glorious day, like giving sight to a blind man’s eyes: he is overwhelmed with what he sees and cannot justly comprehend it.” Charles Darwin on first seeing tropical forests.

“Any idiot can face a crisis. It’s the day-to-day living that can wear you out.” Anton Chekhov.

Richard Feynman on refusing to read his own obituary before his death. “I have decided it is not a very good idea for a man to read it ahead of time. It takes the element of surprise out of it.”

In a cartoon of Sidney Harris, a beautiful maiden is seen speaking to a hard-working scientist. “I’m your guardian angel and I think it’s time you knew that for the past 37 years you’ve been barking up the wrong tree.”

International news:

We at Hawkhill are trying to do our small part in advancing world-wide science education – as well as making a living in a good free-market way for ourselves. During the last few years we have seen some of our programs translated into German, Finnish, Hebrew and Turkish. English language versions are being sold in Hong Kong, Malaysia, Taiwan, Australia, Scotland, Canada and South Korea. If any more of our foreign correspondents would like to import (and/or translate) our programs, give me a call.

Bill Stonebarger, Owner/President Hawkhill

P.S. Our 2010 huge unprecedented sale is still on (though I can’t say right now how long it will be on). You can buy any of our DVD programs at a 70% discount. We are liquidating our VHS video tape programs. The ones we have left you can buy at a 90% discount. See the notice on our web site: at top of this page for more information about this sale.

the Darwin Awards

Monday, March 15th, 2010

Everyone knows of the Academy Awards. But have you heard of the Darwin Awards that are bestowed each year, honoring the least evolved among us?

Here are a few that made the cut this year.

As a female shopper exited a New York convenience store, a man grabbed her purse and ran. The clerk called 911 immediately, and the woman was able to give them a detailed description of the snatcher. Within minutes, the police apprehended the snatcher. They put him in the car and drove back to the store. The thief was then taken out of the car and told to stand there for a positive ID. To which he replied, “Yes, officer, that’s her. That’s the woman I stole the purse from.”

The Ann Arbor News crime column reported that a man walked into a Burger King in Ypsilanti, Michigan, at 5 A.M., flashed a gun, and demanded cash. The clerk turned him down because he said he couldn’t open the cash register without a food order. When the man ordered onion rings, the clerk said they weren’t available for breakfast. The man, frustrated, walked away.

A man walked into a Louisiana Circle-K, put a $20 bill on the counter, and asked for change. When the clerk opened the cash drawer, the man pulled a gun and asked for all the cash in the register, which the clerk promptly provided. The man took the cash from clerk and fled, leaving the $20 bill on the counter. The total amount of cash he got from the drawer … $15. (If someone points a gun at you and gives you money, is a crime committed?)

And the grand prize winner:

When his 38-caliber revolver failed to fire at his intended victim during a hold-up in Long Beach, California, would-be robber James Elliot did something that can only inspire wonder. He peered down the barrel and tried the trigger again. This time it worked.

If you want to learn more about the real McCoy, that is, the real story of Evolution, please see our updated 108-DVD EVOLUTION.

Bill Stonebarger, Hawkhill Owner/President

P.S. Don’t forget, our huge 2010 sale is still on. 70% discount on all DVDs (including of course EVOLUTION) and 90% discount on all VHS video tapes. See our web site www.hawkhill.com for details on over 100 up-to-date DVDs and over 150 new VHS video tapes.

We are liquidating the VHS tapes. They are all new copies so you can stock up your library or classroom shelves with outstanding award-winning video tapes at fire-sale prices. (Some technical experts say video tapes will keep their visual and sound quality at least as long, if not longer than their DVD cousins!)

thanks and amplifications

Sunday, March 7th, 2010

Thanks to those readers who persevered and read my new script on the Cold War and 9/11. And special thanks to those readers who took issue with some of the facts and interpretations. More than one reader thought I did not give enough attention to the Vietnam War and its negative effects. One friend and fellow graduate was upset about my critical remarks about Antioch College. Still another reader was critical of my praise of Ronald Reagan. And my son Andrew felt that the 70/90 sale might make people think we were going out of business!

One Vietnam critic insisted that “right-wing ideologues” like Ronald Reagan were behind the tragic losses in Vietnam. I pointed out that it was actually left-of-center presidents like Jack Kennedy and Lyndon Johnson who got us into the Vietnam War and that for the first few years of the war the vast majority of Congress and the majority of the American public were supportive of the war.

I am working on an expansion of this script which I hope to publish as a book. I point out there important differences between the two hot wars–Korea and Vietnam.

Even though the Korean “police action” ended in a military stalemate, the stalemate was a significant victory for South Korea and a nearly total disaster for North Korea. In North Korea, for instance, (one of only two Marxist-Leninist communist countries in the 21st century, the other is Cuba) up to 2 million people died of starvation in the 1990s. That was out of a total population of 22 million. The life of the survivors was, in the words of one survivor, “worse than a pig’s life in China.” Life expectancy in North Korea today is 48 years while in South Korea it is 71 years. The GDP per capita is $900 in North Korea, $13,700 in South Korea. So no, our “police action” was not in vain and the loss of 50,000 troops in Korea was tragic but, as in WW2, no one died in vain.

Vietnam was different. It was a humiliating defeat for the United States and left a bitter legacy that has still not completely dissipated in 21st century America. Unlike the Korean War which eventually laid the foundation for prosperity in South Korea, the Vietnam defeat laid foundations instead for tragic times in Vietnam, Laos, and Cambodia. Over a million Vietnamese were sent to harsh “re-education camps” where thousands perished; hundreds of thousands of refugees fled Vietnam in small boats, many thousands dying in the attempt; hundreds of thousands of Hmong people were persecuted by communist governments in Laos and Vietnam, some escaping to become immigrants in the U.S.; and most tragic of all, a holocaust came to Cambodia when over 2 million Cambodians died at the hands of fanatic Khmer Rouge communists led by the madman Pol Pot.

Only now in the 21st century are Vietnam, Cambodia and Laos beginning to recover economically. Like China, these southeastern Asian countries, after suffering through many decades of poverty are belatedly but slowly and surely moving from the command-economy of communist days to a modified free-market capitalist economy. As with China, it remains to be seen whether they will also move in democratic political directions and treat their own citizens with more respect.

As for Antioch, I stand by my report that in my days it was a stimulating wonderful place. As it moved sharply leftward in the late 20th century it lost most of its students and most of its financial backers. I am sad about that and hope it can recover and begin again to reconstitute itself as the stimulating wonderful place I knew.

As for Ronald Reagan I admit that it is an exaggeration to claim he “won the cold war.” I make no such a claim. If any one person deserves this credit it has to be Mikhail Gorbachev. In the end, as I do say in my script, it was the internal contradictions in the Marxist-Leninist camp that eventually caused their downfall.

Finally as to my son’s remark – definitely no. We are not going out of business at Hawkhill. Like many other large and small media producers I admit these are tough times and business is slow. I also realize that school budgets are hurting world-wide and the funds available for media purchases are slim. These hard facts led to our new 2010 Hawkhill sale where we offer a 70% discount on all DVDs and a 90% discount on all VHS video tapes. We are trying to liquidate our VHS inventory but not the DVD one. In fact we are expanding our DVD production with new programs that have received strongly positive reviews in national publications like the one reprinted below from School Library Journal.

Capitalism and Democracy (Democracy: The Basics Series). DVD. 50 min with tchr’s. guide, quiz. Hawkhill Assocs. 2008, 2009 release. ISBN 1-55979-222-1. $109. (70% discounted in 2010 sale)

Gr 9 Up—While many individuals may assume that capitalism and democracy are only possible when mated with each other, this well-crafted program presents a comprehensive examination of the relationship between the two theories. Consisting of two distinct divisions, the nicely paced and superbly narrated film reviews the historical development of both the economic theory of capitalism and the governmental concept of democracy and explains how capitalism and democracy are connected today. The historical account begins at the earliest stages of human society and smoothly progresses to today’s complex world with hints at what might occur in the future throughout the world. A rich variety of artwork, video, and photographs help illustrate the connections between capitalism and democracy and enhance the impact of the presentation. New terms are subtitled as they are introduced. There are two interactive review tools for post-viewing use. The guided questions option reviews key points to generate discussion, while the mastery quizzes focus on essential topics and themes from the program. While most teachers will find these assessment devices lacking in substance, their inclusion is a nice bonus. A valuable resource.—Dwain Thomas, formerly Lake Park High School, Roselle, IL

Bill Stonebarger, Owner/President Hawkhill

P.S. Please check out our web site: www.hawkhill.com for over 100 up-to-date DVD programs in science and social studies. You won‘t be sorry. I guarantee it.