It’s Impossible to Teach Without Books

My wife has been a teacher in Oklahoma for five years and has never had the benefit of working with a new textbook. If she had been working in education longer, then that number would be higher. This is a major problem for Oklahoma teachers that sadly, needs to be spelled out. Textbooks are necessary as they give teachers a guided framework to teach students, useful resource material, a means of assessment, and a shared source all in one holistic package.

At least, they used to. Now teachers don’t get even that much. I’ll get to the reasons why, but first you need to realize what life is like for a teacher without classroom books for her kids.

If you’re lucky, you at least get consumables. Consumables are classroom materials that usually include a book, as well as a workbook with tearaway assessment materials (worksheets) that the kids use as their practice and to take grades. While these are better than nothing, they don’t meet the rigor and quality of real textbooks where the assessments are made from ruled paper. The big problem with them, however, isn’t that they don’t provide as much as the texts. It’s that they are very expensive solutions to only this year’s problem. Because they are consumed every year, there is little to nothing to use again next year. While we can complain that we have textbooks in classrooms for ten to 15 years… they’ve done the job for 15 years. Imagine ripping out all the portions of the text that provided activities for the kids to practice what they learned or for the teacher to know if they are getting it. That’s what a consumable solution looks like year two. Of course, this is usually how it works — with a giant pile of garbage created every year and a new set of consumables being purchased each and every year. Did I also mention that the sets are rarely the same requiring the teacher to completely redo her program to accommodate this new solution?

While this isn’t ideal, it makes the job of teaching at least possible. Without at least this solution, your life looks very similar to my wife’s for a few years, which was an abject nightmare.

Imagine that you’ve worked all day, from 7:30 AM to around 5PM herding 80 lbs malcontented chickens. Then you finally get home. Ah, the glories of rest and the comforts of family. But no, now work starts.

If you don’t have a system of integrated resources that align to your lesson plan then you have the happy duty of making one… from scratch… every week. You learn to respect the writers of textbooks when you get to do it yourself. That means all the lessons, the assessments, the testing, the lecture material, and it has to be colorful and entertaining or else it won’t compare to Call of Zombies VI. I’m a professional writer now, so trust me when I say books don’t write themselves. To do that on top of being a full-time teacher… with a family? You must be joking. Obviously, no teacher has the ability to literally write a textbook for her class every year. So for four years, my wife spent hours, upon hours, upon hours searching the internet either on Pinterest or TeachersPayTeachers (like Etsy but teachers sharing assignments they created) for assignments and modules to allow her to teach her required subjects. Note that this means she has to spend her own money for assignments that aren’t integrated into the state-mandated curriculum in any way. But this is what happens when the state doesn’t provide your school with the resources to buy materials for you.

Maybe you’re thinking that this is a good thing, that if they create the curriculum then they are better able to do their jobs — teach kids. You’d be incorrect, as this robs them of how they teach. Think about when I went to Iraq with the Marines. That job is hard enough, right? We can agree there. Now imagine if I had to also buy my own gun and equipment. Worse, how well do you think our warfighters would be if they also had to build their own equipment? The job is designed to push people to their limits already in challenging and dynamic environments. Adding, “gunsmith” to the billet shouldn’t be necessary too. The same is true for teachers, yet we are basically sending them to war without weapons, armor, or a strategy, and telling to make do with what they personally buy from the internet.

But wait, there’s more! No matter what option she takes, she is still going to have no books to work from other than what she prints out herself. Did I mention paper rationing? Yes, on top of having no books, no consumables, and basically making the teachers invent their own curriculum this year, and when all teachers are doing what my wife is doing… that means they have literally nothing to teach their kids with! Frankly, that paper rationing started a minor revolt this year and the superintendent buckled.

But you want to know what is even crazier? It isn’t even a matter of not having the money to buy textbooks. The textbook companies are literally not even printing them. This is due to the chaotic nature of Oklahoma education standards placed on schools by the state. The standards determine what is and isn’t taught by Oklahoma teachers (You thought it was teachers, huh? Yeah right.) What happens when something doesn’t align with the current standards? It’s no good. It has to be thrown out. A brand new classroom set literally has no place in the classroom because of all the things it doesn’t teach decided upon by some committee in Oklahoma city because parents and activists threatened to say mean things on Facebook. Yeah, that’s how the system works. So textbook companies can’t do that. It takes years to create a new edition and they can’t keep up with states as fickle with their standards as ours. That’s why they threw up their hands and said “fooey with the Okies!” and stopped printing books we could use.

I’ll talk about the problems with Oklahoma’s standards later, but next, I want to illuminate you on something you’ve probably been asking yourself ever since this started, “Why not just use updated technology?”

Why not indeed…


 Next Article: The Myth of Classroom Tablets or Start at the Beginning

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It’s Not a Teacher Crisis – It’s a Tax Crisis

Oklahoma isn’t facing a teacher crisis, but a tax crisis. Simply, Oklahoma can’t give what it doesn’t have. You can see this in by looking at our Highway Patrol and Prisons are dangerously underfunded. This is not to mention other government organizations like the Department of Human Services, or often overlooked state jobs like court reporters, who have gone for more than a decade without a pay raise.

Could some reshuffling be done, cannibalize other state programs to support the monolithic budgetary needs of public education? Sure, but which parks do you want to close? What infrastructure do you want to cancel? What welfare do you want to cut? Who do you want to lay-off? We could do that, in some places we should, but this is not just a teacher crisis. Oklahoma just doesn’t have money.

So the other option, raise taxes.

Many of the current demands on Oklahoma legislatures are to raise the oil excise taxes, the tax on a good once it is drawn out of its original source, back to 7% from its current around 3% with other subsidies paid out to oil and energy companies. That’s certainly one option. I’m not discounting it. But like cutting programs, that will come with consequences too. While increasing the excise tax will relieve current pressures a few things need to be understood about the oil industry. First off, most of the oil which comes from a new well is drilled in the first three years. After that, it trickles for the next twenty. Many of the new wells are already beyond their three-year mark, but many other wells remain yet to be dug. We still have to account for international tampering in the oil industry, but eventually, that will end too. If Oklahoma makes reactionary decisions today to solve near problems, they miss the greatest industry boom in world history when foreign states can no longer artificially hold the price per barrel of oil so low.

So while I agree with many that raising the excise tax today could relieve many of  Oklahoma’s numerous hardships, we do so at the cost of many future opportunities. I’m not going pretend it’s an easy decision for lawmakers because they are literally choosing between our children’s education today, or risking those same children’s future employment tomorrow.

That said, taxes don’t just come from energy. The state is already taxed with high property, income, and even a grocery tax, but we also have on the table so-called vice taxes, such as raising sales taxes on alcohol, tobacco, as well as lottery and casino winnings. We also need to talk about a referendum which took place for a 1% sales tax increase that would have translated to a $5,000 pay raise directly to Oklahoma teachers. The voters in Oklahoma have spoken with directly with that one.

They voted “No.”

You can say that this reflects the culture of Oklahoma, which it may, but Oklahoma teachers need to accept it also says something about a state that no longer has faith in the industry. Yes, we aren’t paid well, but few in the state are. But even if Oklahoma teachers are paid better, can educators honestly say that there aren’t still massive roadblocks in the system preventing them from being the best teachers they could be? Here, I’m talking about the endless parade of benchmark testing to ensure that schools pass the test, technology grants with no quality training for its usage and implementation, the high cost of administrative oversight, students missing 10% of their school days for activity absences, and the lavish amounts of money spent on sports facilities when other teachers don’t have classroom book sets. Oklahoma education needs to grapple the reality that major changes are needed within the education system and not just at the state level.

I want to be fair, teaching in Oklahoma has challenges other industries don’t. The hours are murder and the conditions are impossible, especially for new teachers. I’m saying that as someone who has worked in Oklahoma education for three years, and who was deployed twice to Iraq with the US Marines. The resources aren’t there, and the struggle is mostly invisible to parents and the community. But the reason that it is called a teacher crisis and not a statewide budget crisis is because teachers are the largest and most organized publicly paid collective in the state. So it’s much easier for them to make demands upon the state than others. 

But Oklahoma isn’t hearing them anymore. As evidenced by the failure of Oklahoma voters to fund their own education system, they aren’t moved by arguments centered around, “for the kids”. This isn’t because they don’t love their kids. It’s because they don’t have faith in Oklahoma schools. They view that whatever funds raised through new taxes levied or programs cut are simply not going to make it to their children, but instead be absorbed by an inefficient education system unwilling to adapt to current needs. And I know the teachers. I was one. My wife is one. Many of the best people I know are still in the industry. But teachers need to deal with the fact that there exists a trust issue between educators and people of the state. Teachers are mobilizing and will probably be making many demands over the next few months; many they will get. However, if some hard conversations don’t begin at the state and local level which demand hard reforms to Oklahoma education, I fear the gap between Oklahoma and her teachers is only going to widen.


Next Article: The Problem with Shale or Start at the Beginning

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Oklahoma’s Big Oil Problem

Oklahoma education is tied to an overall funding crisis. You can’t talk about Oklahoma finances without talking about the oil industry and specifically, shale oil.

Shale oil production is a process of accessing oil that has previously been locked away within the rock deep underground. Not long ago, the only profitable way to drill for oil involved horizontal wells that dug into large pockets. Eventually, those pockets became difficult to find and the old “bobbing donkey” wells stopped pumping. In the last decade, however, new technologies like horizontal drilling and hydraulic fracking have opened up new avenues for the black stuff.

How does this affect Oklahoma’s economy? It’s much more than just selling the oil. Images such as the one above are misleading, namely because there is never just one pipe. In reality, there would be dozens of pipes jutting in all directions. This was beautiful for the Oklahoma economy because someone had to build all that. Manufacturers built the pipes, the pumps, and the thousands of other support jobs created to support the drilling. People also had to truck all that, and local communities also began investing in infrastructure. The wells were only a part of it. The process was extremely labor intensive, which meant jobs and enough taxes in 2013 that Oklahoma’s problems included figuring out how to spend the surplus.

This economic boom didn’t happen by accident. Oklahoma used to have a high excise tax on oil. Excise taxes are taxes paid when a resource is exited from the soil. Oklahoma excise taxes were around 7% prior to the oil boom. But Oklahoma legislatures knew enough about the oil industry to know a horizontal well at the time cost around 5 times as much to build than vertical wells, though they had much more potential. They also knew that Oklahoma wasn’t the only place in the nation this technology could be used. So Oklahoma made the choice to lower excise taxes and offer other subsidies to oil companies to choose Oklahoma over other states. It paid off. Because of that choice, Oklahoma experienced an oil boom, and the US is currently experiencing the products of that wealth today.

In fact, the success of shale oil was so monumental that it had worldwide effects and put the United States to be a net oil exporter by 2020. Some people weren’t happy about that, like Saudi Arabia, who have long enjoyed the wealth gained from a profitable relationship with the United States and exporting its vast oil wealth around the world. In an attempt to kill the burgeoning American shale oil industry, Saudi Arabia did what only they can do: they slashed prices. They could afford this because the Saudis have enough oil that they could live off a loss in oil production for some 30 years without feeling the effects of their own luxurious lifestyle. The rest of the world, however, shuttered and stumbled, few places as much as Oklahoma and its still infant shale oil industry.

So shale responded by getting smarter by drilling down to one central location, which served as a hub for all the pipes that would be built, and also greatly improved the life of a well.

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By becoming far more efficient two things happened: the United States is currently experiencing an energy boom, but… the market for all industries supporting the actual drilling up the oil collapsed. The jobs Oklahoma expected to still be there have withered as we’re seeing those jobs disappear due to simple better business practices and the still artificially low cost of Saudi oil. Then consider the natural process of oil drilling. Once the ground is mapped, the pipes are drilled, the infrastructure built, and the pumping started, there isn’t much left to do from a manufacturing perspective. If it isn’t profitable to drill more platforms, then the jobs aren’t going to be replaced elsewhere. Once the work is done, the drilling starts and there is no new job creation anywhere. Fewer jobs being created by the shale industry shook up the Oklahoma economy. As Oklahoma’s strategy hinged on the continued growth of the industry, and to live off taxes from incomes on all the industries that supported the oil, international maneuvering and the necessary response from local business left Oklahoma in a hard place. This is where Oklahoma has been for a few years. As the nation benefits from massive volumes of cheap and readily available energy, Oklahoma is in a recession.

I say this a former Oklahoma teacher. Speaking rationally, I can’t blame my principal or the school board for problems that are happening a mile under our feet and all over the state. I also can’t blame Oklahoma City for decisions that weren’t even made in the Western Hemisphere specifically targetting our way of life. I want to be angry, but there is just no one to blame on this one and realities we have which we need to accept and understand. Blaming won’t solve this one. Well, maybe there is someone to blame – Scientists and Saudis.


Next Article: It’s Impossible to Teach Without Books or Start at the Beginning


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What’s With the Oklahoma Teacher Crisis?

Educators in Oklahoma are preparing to strike. This is following years of worsening work conditions and the recent news that Oklahoma is now the lowest ranked state in the country in teacher pay.

So how did we get to this point?

Teachers are asking for explanations from Oklahoma leaders why the state seems to have failed so deeply with education, and many are looking for partisan answers. Some blame conservative tax policies while many others advocate that the structure of Oklahoma schools is too rigid and fails to adapt. Others acknowledge most issues aren’t partisan at all. Most of the real problems for Oklahoma have little to nothing to do with politics, but the economy.

I’m a former Oklahoma school teacher married to a current Oklahoma school teacher. I’ve seen the debates from several angles, both as an educator, and now as a researcher. Over the next few weeks, I’ll be working to unpack all the problems of Oklahoma education, by diving into causes of teacher burnout and the politics of Oklahoma education. Make sure to follow The War Elephant on Facebook to get more daily updates.


Next Article: It’s Not a Teacher Crisis – It’s a Tax Crisis or Start at the Beginning

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Does Trowing Grenades Down Tank Guns Really Work?

No. It isn’t a thing.

You see this thing? This thing’s a thing. It’s called a machine gun. Its job is to say to any individual who might have some cute idea about doing something stupid:

“If you do that stupid thing, or if I think you’re thinking of doing that stupid thing… I will turn you into a leaking pile of goo.”

Most modern tanks come equipped with some form of secondary measure to take out individual troops that are too close for the main gun. You’re going to have to get very, very close to try this movie stunt. If you’ve got a great arm and crazy good aim you might be able to sink that putt at 30 yards. Just as a warning, to get that close, you’ve been in the range of the “small” gun for about a mile.

Beyond that is that a tank is usually not alone. They are normally supporting operations that require the mobility of hundreds of ground forces, if not thousands or even tens of thousands. Tanks cost money. They are not used lightly and are never alone. If you want to get to a tank, you’re going to have to get through the growling little honey badgers that it is supporting.

Good luck with that.

That said, when you’re fighting against idiots, it’s possible. Marcus Henry Weber’s answer shows just a situation when exactly this happened. During the Syrian Civil War, rebel fighters fighting against Assad’s forces snuck up to a tank and literally threw a grenade down the main gun’s barrel. It appeared to roll down into the main cavity of the tank, blow up, and kill the crew before igniting the ammunition in a rather spectacular light show.

What you’ll notice is that, according to my earlier statements this is exactly how not to use a tank. You’ll see no secondary weapon, at least not one manned, nor will you see any supporting infantry. And what happened? A bunch of guys literally a few yards away wearing blue t-shirts and flip flops casually jaunted over to the tank and blew it the kingdom come. And this is why the Syrians suck at everything. To tell the truth, I’m not even certain the vehicle wasn’t already abandoned, to begin with and this was simply made to look like something cooler than it was.

That said, unless you fight a war against morons, say you’re fighting people with actual experience like the US military, this “tactic” is not a real thing.


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You’ve Probably Never Encountered Real Conservative Views

I was directed to a question last week:

Why is it that the more I’m exposed to conservative logic, the further left my thinking goes?

To the person who asked the question, chances are you are likely not being exposed to Conservative logic, at all.

Let me ask you something that you need to answer very honestly; are you being exposed to conservative views, or are you being exposed to people who aren’t conservatives telling you what conservatives believe?

I’ll tell you honestly, I’ve written a great deal over the last few years explaining to people what my conservative views are, and many uncomfortably squirm as they realize that my logic is far more nuanced and based on far too many facts to be explained away as simply as many so freely do. I’m told of how I hate blacks, and women, all people of color really, and any minority. I’m told that I only want rich people to have a good life (ironic given my lowly status in the bottom quartile.) I’m told I’m anti-science by people who don’t understand the concept of P-hacking and still think solar will save us, but nuclear energy is going to leave the world in a barren husk. I also want poor people to die (which explains so much of my behavior.) This is what I’m told of what I believe, anyway. Nevermind that those proclaiming this to me (and you) are those empowered by such untruths because they deceive very good people just like you away from ever giving my views a chance.

Look, I’m going to give you three examples of what our logic really is. It’s not going to be easy. My beliefs take a lot of time to understand, so it’s going to take time to read them. If you balk at the time spent reading it, imagine writing them. That said, I promise anyone who reads the answers thoroughly will have so many of their stereotypes about conservatives shattered and question where they’ve been getting their information for many years.

Let’s start here… you probably think I’m cruel because I am against all forms of government healthcare. Would you like to understand why, or are you fine with that belief about me?

Why are conservatives so against universal health care?

Finished? Let’s shift gears to why you probably think I hate Muslims. There’s way more to that story too.

What do Trump supporters think about the current restrictions on U.S. visas?

How about one that gets to the heart of a lot of things.

As a conservative, what did you dislike about Obama?

I feel I’ve made my point, but if you want to keep going, we can keep going.

I can do this all day, bro.

Now, if you read any of those, you probably got challenged a lot on what you’ve heard, and I bet, now that I am pointing you straight to the answers, that you probably can’t say you’ve heard those arguments straight from one of us. Maybe you’ll say, “But I’ve just never heard someone put up such an argument because Conservatives aren’t usually that informed.”

ಠ_ಠ

For that, I look_of_disapproval in your general direction.

We are out there, but you haven’t been looking. In all honesty, you’ve known where to look all along. Usually, when you’re told about the most horrible people on Earth, you should actually do yourself the favor of learning what they believe from them, and not from your friends. In this way, I’ve discovered Ben Shapiro, the Jew who was declared a white supremacist Nazi; Toronto Professor Dr. Jordan Peterson, who was recently called a champion of the Alt-Right and compared to Hitler; or to Thomas Sowell, who many on the left like to pretend doesn’t exist because he single-handedly destroys so many of their arguments with his existence alone, let alone the brilliance in his logic that will leave you thinking for days. I’ve learned so much from so many prodigious minds simply by being skeptical of the people who tell me there is something wrong with them.

You’ve probably forgotten how to do that. Instead, you listen to your friends and your trusted sources and your gut leads you to what more perfectly aligns with your cognitive strata of how the world works. That’s okay. I do too, and I get it. “Who’s got the time for all that?” We all have jobs, we all have lives and such. I do, I get it. But this stuff matters. If you do the easy thing and simply vote with your heart and your gut, frankly and bluntly, you’re likely to cause some extremely profound and long-term suffering for many people, and odds are, exactly the people you’re trying to help.

Look, I’ve read many of the other guys, and while they may hyperfocus on a particular problem to unveil fascinating details about their particular subject of interest, the narratives they weave often unravel when confronted with external evidence which conflict with the notions of oppression, repression, and general manufactured misery which are the underlying assumptions for so much of their work.

For example, we can both agree that the blacks in the United States suffer disproportionately more than whites. You’ve probably heard this via progressive theory, which states that this is due to the deliberate works of racist whites to create institutions of repression to keep blacks marginalized.

One way to look at this is by noting that most of the ways that blacks are marginalized relative to whites, whites are marginalized to Asians. This is most obviously due to fact that our Korean founders wrote the Korean Constitution of the United States to ensure that they and all other Asians score higher on tests, do better in college, make more money in their careers, live in nicer homes, and retire to better lives than their non-Asian counterparts. Absurd, no? Given that, let’s look at how conservatives explain it.

But Conservative logic does sound very different. They acknowledge the white/black disparity, but instead of placing blame on hate canonized in the bowels of our society’s institutions, they place the blame for this disparity on rationale much more in keeping with Occam’s razor, that among competing hypotheses, the one with the fewest assumptions should be selected. The competing hypothesis of Conservatives? That rather than some collective cabal of powerful white men secretly pulling the strings to ensure racism remains an institutionalized motivator in the United States… blame the incompetence of the very social programs designed to help minorities. Conservatives believe that racism itself is no longer a driving motivator in America, but that blacks (and other minorities) are still held back, in a tragic irony, by many of the poorly devised social programs sold to Americans to raise them up. Hearing these arguments articulated caused probably the most stunning shift in my beliefs, which I owe completely to Larry Elders, Thomas Sowell, and one particular book by Jason L. Riley (all black, by the way) which I guarantee you will shake up the assumptions many on the left hold to this day, but which I encourage everyone who says they want equality.

Please Stop Helping Us: How Liberals Make It Harder for Blacks to Succeed: Jason L. Riley

I get it though. Everyone wants to be the good guy. You want to feel like the evil in this world is clear and obvious and that you are fighting against it. If you are fighting against the evil, then you’re the good guy, and anyone who disagrees with you — well they must be the villains. It feels good to think that way. That’s why the arguments win so much, because when someone says, “They do this because they are evil,” and the villain replies, “No, you’re just wrong in how you solve problems,” most people will side with the one they think is nice rather than the argument that requires in-depth and impartial analysis and understanding. Suffice it to say, most people would rather give the benefit of the doubt to the one who they think is good than the one they think is reasonable because few people care as much about being right as they care about being good. There are worse motivations in the universe, I suppose.

Having said all of this, I’m fairly certain you haven’t actually been exposed to much conservativism. If you are new to politics, you probably think the left are the good guys and the right are the mean ones who only like money, power, and repression. Almost certainly, you didn’t hear that from your conservative friends. I’d even venture a guess, that you may not have any.

That’s not even a judgment statement. There’s a reason for that.

You need to understand that most people after leaving their parents’ house and coinciding with the time they start forming their own ideas, lose connections with most conservative institutions and begin being inundated with progressive influences. For example, your parents and the family that raised you is a conservative institution. If you attended church as a kid, that’s one too. Most kids have trouble replacing these institutions after they leave the nest. Instead, these institutions are replaced by colleges, which have undeniable value but are grounds where views and opinions highly biased to left-wing attitudes are allowed to go unchallenged and can ironically be very oppressive of dissenting information critical of their ideas. And yes, I have evidentiary support for that statement.

Furthermore, this is also the time where you no longer have access to sources of information like your old networks, including your parents, so you’re going to need some new sources of information. This last year has shown us, that almost the entirety of the news industry is too highly biased against an honest understanding of conservative values and views. Perhaps you disagree, but you’re going to have to explain why all the high profile media failings of the last year were all aimed at making someone (namely Donald Trump) look bad. This is also a stage of life where you are okay with this because it is difficult to understand the meaning of the institutions that are lost to you and what the influences you have around you aim to do with your life. Simply put, you undervalue tradition and wisdom, and overvalue your new sources of information without developing a critical analysis of, another irony, the very people telling you to be critical of your traditional pearls of wisdom.

Don’t forget that when this is happening you’re surrounded by friends who are going through the same things you are. You’ll lean on those peer groups heavily as you enter your period where you start forming political ideas. Of course, you’re still basically the blind leading the blind, and one very opinionated know-it-all can affect what is allowed to be said on an entire dorm floor. That probably wasn’t one of the Conservative students, if we’re being honest.

Now, maybe a lot of that matches your story. Maybe none of it does, but probably at least enough to make you question if you ever actually heard a conservative explain their views from their own mouth and if you are really just functioning off assumptions and misinformation told to you by people very against conservatism told you, whether they knew it or not.


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Does the white working class really vote against its interests?

This is such a profoundly arrogant statement for anyone who actually believes it. I’m really glad that liberals like Jay Wacker and Ian McCullough answered, providing good, nuanced viewpoints from the liberal side. It’s been important to see good examples such as theirs for displacing the anger many people living in this situation may experience when liberal outlets and individuals speak from such a profoundly wrong and disrespectful point of view. The only thing wrong with their answers is that they don’t address the question specifically from our viewpoints. So with thanks to those gentlemen, I’ll offer that.

I remember the first time I heard “you’re voting against your interests”, immediately after the election by yet another person who was just so sure that he knew the conditions of my life better than me. Yet this same person was shocked, shocked I tell you, that Clinton didn’t win with the New York Time’s predicted 90% chance of victory a few weeks before. What does that tell you? It told me that a bunch of people who had absolutely no understanding of me and my life days ago suddenly became experts on my condition, as well as suddenly being able to view every policy proposal on the books from my perspective — better than me!

I want to be honest, every single time I have seen this levied in earnest, it has been by someone bitter about the election wanting to mock us and not from genuine concern. If it had been a concern, they would understand that mostly, they are wrong. They rationalize policies they wanted and then argue how that would have been better for us than what we wanted. This is positively asinine since, right up until about a year ago, our needs, concerns, wishes, and grievances were being mocked by the people making these plans, so to say that they in any way would solve our problems is laughable. I’m sorry, but no one who calls me and people like me part of a “basket of deplorables” has my best interests at heart.

Okay, at this point, it just sounds like I’m angry. I am, but let’s look at some real arguments to give substance to the outrage.

I really love that my good friend Ian McCullough brought up the What’s the Matter with Kansas? book. I’m a conservative, he’s a liberal, and we have a lot of respect for each other so I would recommend him to anyone. But here, I’ll offer the other side of the story.

Much of the ideas behind What’s the Matter with Kansas stems around the fact that Kansas, like many red states, takes up more in government aid and welfare than they contribute, specifically when compared to wealthy blue states like California and New York. This phenomenon of people who soak up government aid in spite of their conservative voting patterns appear in places with namely two things in common:

  1. They once were solid Democrat and are now solid Republican
  2. Their main source of income was from agriculture or some other displaced industry.

Those points are important because you need to understand how amazingly rich my community used to be. I live in a small town in Oklahoma. For all intents and purposes, they could have written that book about us, but they chose Kansas. First of all, there is a reason that we want to “Make America Great Again.”

We look to the 1950’s with nostalgia because of how truly wonderful it was for us. First of all, if you look out to the open fields, everything was farmland. People were working and providing well for their families making cotton that made American clothing as well food for Americans. Fortunes were made as small towns like mine were looked at as great places to raise a family with lots of opportunity and wealth to go around for those willing to work and live peacefully.

Then it all went away. Price controls on labor and government subsidies for some made it impossible for agriculture to be profitable for the average farmer. My grandfather actually ran the last cotton gin in the 1970’s before it went under because there were no more growers. Furthermore, the jobs around cotton disappeared, such as the pants factory, one of only two factories in my town, that is not just a cement slab, as it has been… also, since the 70’s. After that, a few mega-growers overtook all industries and the region was gutted. Many of these mega-growers, now maintain their prices through illegal immigrant labor, but that is a whole other story. You don’t hear much from this because both the Republicans and Democrats are guilty of supporting the subsidies and supporting the mega-growers, so neither are ever going to say a word about. The collapse of the labor market for agriculture was much of the same as the story of the Rust Belt, but instead of seeing withered factories, I sit surrounded by some of the most fertile farmland in the country that hasn’t seen a plow for more than 40 years.

But then the government came to save us.

After the collapse of agriculture from the viewpoint of farm labor in the 1960s, millions developed a dependence on government aid to save themselves from the decline which was ironically brought on by government intervention into the market. This was actually the second time they did this.

I want you to understand what the world is like for us as a unique culture in the US. Long after slavery had ended, most of us, as in my very white, very poor ancestors were still picking cotton in the fields. Both mine and my wife’s grandmothers told stories in visceral detail about what picking bowls of cotton, the weight of hauling that heavy bag through the fields, and the scorching summer heat of a West Texas farm in the 1920’s and 30’s. For perspective, this image is one taken about 30 miles from my home at about the time people when people were desperate for “someone to do something”.

After that, the New Deal did those things. It brought out huge government works programs and told people it would take care of them. Work hard and Social Security would be there for you. What actually brought us out of poverty were millions of men returning from World War II with saved up money, a massive industrial base that built up from the war, and the relaxing of war-era rationing. All this combined was an explosion in economic growth the likes of which that generation had never known. However, many believed that the promises of the New Deal would be enough to get them through retirement. There was no need to save because Social Security would be enough for them. While the region was growing immensely wealthy, my grandparent’s generation was making choices they had no idea would straddle their children’s generation with hardships they never foresaw because they thought the good times would continue on forever.

As the crops disappeared in the 1960’s and 70’s, however, they had a horrific wake-up call… right about the time of the War on Poverty and the Great Society began to take effect. These programs gave out exceedingly more benefits based on need, particularly to those who weren’t working or who had children born outside of marriage, not to mention numerous housing decisions that were terrible for the neighborhoods they were affected.

Following that, what we saw wasn’t a world where the government helped us or where people were mostly lifting themselves out of poverty. Quite the opposite. Funds were distributed, but here, there are people who live in poverty as a career. They are able to maintain a minimum lifestyle off government funding. Since that point, what we are seeing nationally is that the poverty line has mostly flatlined, while handouts continue to rise. This is most prominent in the areas like mine, where welfare is already normalized and where the tax base is having a harder and harder time keeping up with its rise.

I’m not talking about some distant statistical scarecrow. I am talking about real people I see daily. I mean the parents of many of the students at the school where my wife and I work and the people who live next door to me. This lifestyle is not conducive toward raising healthy homes or giving their kids a good foundation, let alone a future. It certainly isn’t capable of creating the types of wealth that people can safely retire on, nor does it produce the sorts investment into future growth in their community. Instead, it drives down the tax base while increasing the amounts infrastructure requirements by way of city utilities to schooling. You wonder why education is so low here? It isn’t because no one thought to pay teachers more. It’s because we have too many kids and not enough of a tax base. Multiply that by everything we’d like to give our people. This is what small-town conservatives fear when we talk about the welfare state.

If you’d really like to understand how the welfare state has affected the family in culture, as well as what life is like for millions of Americans who absolutely no one is listening to, I would strongly recommend reading Hillbilly Elegy: A Memoir of a Family and Culture in Crisis: J. D. Vance. It outlines far better than I could how culture has declined in the rural areas most likely to be the topic of this question.

Secondly, a very good juxtaposition of What’s the Matter with Kansas? would be something like What’s Going on in Texas?

Texas is the best embodiment of what many want to see happening, as far as the white working class. Granted, they didn’t suffer from the destruction of the agricultural labor market, or at least they were able to transfer their economy over into oil, shipping, and finance. But they’ve also made some very good choices and have a particular culture that has made them very wealthy, serving as to disprove much of narratives surrounding what left-leaning advocates believe should happen in states like theirs. They have wealth, they have investment, they have manufacturing and industry. They also have greater protection of property rights, not to mention being the anchor of job recovery during the massive recession over the last decade for the entire nation.

This is particularly true against far more left-leaning states like California. I couldn’t find a more current one, but it is worth noting that this graph ended almost immediately before the graph above started.

Furthermore, it has a lower cost of living with higher living standards and even manages to have better income inequality than most other states. Particularly egregious is comparisons to states like California, where Texas’ saw growth for both its wealthiest 1% and the bottom 99% over the period of 2009 to 2012, while California saw similar growth for its top 1% but a -3% decline in income for their 99% over the same period.[1]

Are there problems? Sure. But they are sitting pretty by most people’s standards, particularly the states which have suffered the long-term effects of collectivist policy, such that Democrats are currently suggesting, as well as those who had no major industry to replace agriculture after the state intervened into it. So this is where we are now. People say that states like mine vote against their interests because we wholeheartedly reject modern collectivist measures to “raise us out of poverty”. We, however, are already straddled with the financial and culture burden of exactly these same kinds of measures from generations past.

The worst part, when we say these things, we are completely ignored. In the best cases, we are dismissed as not knowing what is best for us because we are just the working class, more commonly known as rednecks, white trash, and hillbillies, and mostly by people who have never set foot in our towns. In the worst cases, we all suddenly became racists for pointing out images like the family of poor whites picking cotton or for mentioning that according to the US census in 2010, the number of poor whites outnumbers the number of poor blacks by about 12:1. If I say that, you hear me saying that “there is no problem with black poverty” instead of hearing what I am actually saying that the problems of poverty are not due to racism, but are rooted in exactly the same kind of bad governance. But mostly, you just don’t hear from us at all. That’s because the same sorts of metrics that gave The New York Times and virtually every other major news media outlet absolute certainty that Clinton was going to win, can only come to such an unfathomably wrong conclusion because they completely and totally don’t reach out to more than a third of the nation who don’t live in easy to reach, mostly urban, mostly rich, liberal cities.

Yet these people are the ones who want to tell us what our interests are? Pure arrogance


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Can Trump’s Wall Really Work?

Again, these are not pretty solutions, and won’t stop a determined anything from scaling it. No one is reasonably expecting it to cut off 100% of either crime related to the south of the border sources or illegal immigration. There will still be novel solutions to ever-growing problems, however, like the Great Wall of China, the main source of exploitation for both crime and illegal immigration en masse, being a largely unchecked and unenforceable border between the US and Mexico will be removed from the options for those attempting to break US laws of entry. In some places, tunnels will be dug, but for the 170,000 people who entered the US illegally in 2015 to try to pop out of a single hole in the ground… it’s going to be noticed. Across more than 2,000 miles of open border? Not so much. A person with enough desire and motivation can scale a line of Hescos just as easily as anything else. Whether we’re talking about a massive wall taking years, or a few piles of really elaborate sandbags, it serves as a very strong barrier to slow people down and prevent the movement of much larger goods, such as large amounts of drugs, weapons, or vehicles carrying even more. While you might be able to get over such a wall, the time it took to get a huge backpack filled with this sort of contraband is enough that someone watching a camera feed will probably say, “Hey Joe, you see that down at mile marker 87?”

Some will even be able to overcome the massive walls planned out, but the vast majority will be turned away, attempting to try their luck through some fraudulent means at border checkpoints. Given that we will then have the manpower to check these resources, that too will become tougher to execute. So it won’t work for 100%, but we have every reason to believe that a 95% reduction in illegal border crossing and south of the border originated international crime is completely possible. That’s great news. That’s the point of this wall, and by all evidence we have, there’s nothing to say it couldn’t do the job.


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It Doesn’t Need to be Pretty

There are also numerous avenues on how to approach the building of such a wall beyond just the extreme assumptions of building the most expensive variant of proposed walls across the entire border. We can even look to implementation set up in Iraq and Afghanistan for such examples. If you’ll look at my profile picture, you’ll see what are called T-barriers.

Also called Bremer Walls and Jersey Barriers, these are large and freestanding concrete slabs are cheap to build, transport, and install. They essentially fit together like massive Lego bricks with a notch fitting two together that is mirrored on the opposite side so that an infinitely long chain can be created able to bend around objects or buildings and adjust with the terrain that is impossible to destroy without heavy machinery. They’re like legos for big boys.

In Iraq, we used them for two reasons. You can see behind me, that they were lined around our prefabricated living units. This was because the walls were able to absorb the blast of an incoming mortar, small missile, or random rocket-propelled grenade, which might come our way and endanger the thousands of Marines inside. The second way we used them was during the “Surge”, a change in tactics to our counter-insurgency efforts where, overnight, entire city blocks could be quarantined off with these units. This allowed Marines and soldiers to wall off whole neighborhoods within hours, allowing few points of entry and exit that could be manned and checked while teams searched house to house for weapons, contraband, or other signs of enemy activity. Just as quickly, the walls could be moved or removed to clear other parts of the city.

I want to be clear, that like the Great Wall of China example, there is nothing stopping someone determined from getting over one of these walls. A ladder could do it. What they do, however, is prevent the free flow of large numbers of people, and more importantly, a large amount of cargo to pass freely. You might be able to sneak over the wall yourself, and you might even be able to get over with a rifle, but there is no way you are going to be able to sneak an entire team with heavy weapons, rocket and bomb parts, and other logistical considerations over the wall clandestinely. That’s what the T-barriers did. They broke up the enemy’s ability to move and, in my mind, had a major part in the story of how the United States successfully quelled the insurgency around 2007… not that anyone heard about that.

All that to say… I’m a big fan of these simple impediments. They saved a lot of lives.

Even more humble is the HESCO barrier. These ingenious little devices are little more than 21st-century sandbags, literally. They are large canvas bags supported by a metal frame which be broken down and stacked by the hundreds when unused, taken out and unfolded where they will be installed, and then just have sand, dirt, rocks, or anything dumped in them.

Installation of these barriers is even easier than that of the T-barriers requiring little more than two unskilled technicians, a truck, and a lot of dirt.

Importantly, I’ve seen these things stacked four high, making a wall of about twenty feet. Interestingly, it can be filled with dirt excavated in other areas of the construction project. These “insta-forts” are able to be installed, and just as importantly, taken down, in a matter of days, rather than weeks, months, or even years and at a fraction of the cost of what most are assuming such a wall would cost. Granted, this is not a solution that will last a thousand years, but it will get the job done in many of the areas where a massive wall isn’t required, but some impediment is.

This is why the same technology (yes giant bags of sand and dirt still count as technology) is used in the United States civilian side to protect against the sudden threat of flooding.


Continue to the next section.

The Wall