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Thursday, December 16, 2010 - 12:29pmSanction this postReply
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I received this message today from the Alumni Association of my alma mater, the North Carolina School of Science and Mathematics (NCSSM):

The NCSSM Food Drive has applied for a $50,000 grant from the Pepsi Refresh Project. Please help them win the money by texting 104425 to PEPSI (73774) or voting online at http://www.refresheverything.com/ncssmfooddrive.

Want to make your vote ten times more powerful? Vote for them and their coaltion at http://www.my10votes.com/ and vote for all the projects in the coalition. Every vote we send them, is 9 votes back for the Food Drive!

Please vote today and each day remaining in December! They need to be in the top 10 when the clock strikes midnight to ring in the New Year. They are right on the edge now - in 11th place.

Thank you for your support of the NCSSM Food Drive.


I am sharing this in the Dissent Forum to give the resident altruists a chance to defend their ideas. For an egoist, there is nothing wrong with benevolently helping needy people. For an altruist, such assistance is not just an act of benevolence, but a moral duty to the point where those who do not take it may forfeit their very right to exist.

I was always uneasy with the community service requirement at NCSSM. When I recently ran the numbers at minimum wage, the required 60 hours hardly made a dent in the $54,000 total cost per student for two years at NCSSM. So I have to wonder what kinds of head games people are playing here.

The NCSSM Food Drive link mentioned earlier mentions "civic responsibility" which is a fancy name for "altruistic duty." The numbers make one wonder if the best way to perform this "duty" would be to close NCSSM and reduce the tax burden on these starving citizens. So I pose this question to altruists and egoists alike: Is there a "multiplier" effect here I am missing as it relates to these "community service" efforts?



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Sunday, December 19, 2010 - 12:11pmSanction this postReply
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Good point about "civic responsibility" being a code word for altruistic duty. Hadn't occurred to me, but that's exactly what it is, and Objectivists are right to oppose it. One might as well have said "civic servitude" as "civic responsibility."

Whether self-righteously enjoined or politically coerced, it's collectivist brain-washing with a down-home spin, and should be recognized for what it is -- a travesty of morality and a travesty of justice!

Another catch-phrase popular with the collectivist crowd is "giving back" -- as if you took something that didn't belong to you. People from poor neighborhoods who succeeded against the odds are lauded for "giving back" to their communities. The implication is that they owe it to those less fortunate than they, and are being selfish if they don't honor their "obligation."

The fact that they were ambitious enough to rise above their background -- the fact that they earned their success -- is irrelevant. Their success is simply a matter of luck, like winning the lottery, and must therefore be shared with their friends and neighbors.




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Monday, December 20, 2010 - 6:46amSanction this postReply
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Thanks for the feedback, Bill. I have considered posting this as a Facebook Note to see what my fellow NCSSM Alumni have to say about it. But I worry that it will just turn into a flame war with nothing of value produced. I have noticed an unusual predisposition of the more vocal alumni to fall all over themselves in "gratitude" to the State of North Carolina for the NCSSM opportunity.

Speaking for myself, while I appreciated the experience, I am still left with numbers tied to activities that make no sense, e.g. the value created by community service, etc. I detect a degree of attempted "social conditioning" here. I suppose one long range purpose of the community service requirement involves an expected probability that graduates will continue this "habit" for life.

Without seeing studies to corroborate or refute this claim, I can only speculate. However, I would bet that if this actually happened, the NCSSM marketing machine would trumpet it loudly at every opportunity. Since it does not, I bet that the "habit" never actually materialized.

Is the "community service" requirement just a lewd and lascivious act of moral public masturbation on the part of bureaucrats?

At least this particular project has an expected payoff for the school in terms of potentially winning a contest!



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Thursday, January 27, 2011 - 7:24amSanction this postReply
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Integrity is the whole range of virtues. This implies that if any one virtue is absent, then there is a gap in the integrity.
 
Civil society is a construct of a society whose general members altogether have complete integrity. Civility is like the best in defensive driving, meaning that not only is self-interest at play, but so is an interest in the well-being of others---beginning most naturally with one's spouse, children, and extra-family friends.
 
Civil society (as opposed to anarchic chaos or a caste system) is impossible without both self-interest and other-interest. Since the world is one in which there often is misunderstanding between persons, and between groups, the persons and groups who have the consistent disadvantage on the 'roadways of life' must be compensated for being 'run off the road'. Abuses to one's social generosity should not be what determines how one interacts with others, including taking effort for hope of conveying values which one thinks someone may be missing.

Similarly, despite conflicts of expression between the variety of different persons, material generosity in general acts as a key part in what amounts to a comprehensive societal insurance plan against ending up in some kind of corrupt caste system. Most people in a civil society find nothing admirable in a socially competent person's strict preoccupation with his own preferences. Even a tyrant, who uses military loyalty to commandeer limited resources for his own every personal pleasure-and-power, needs to be appreciated in terms of his personal uniqueness without regard for his bad reputation.
 
But, the problem with a tyrant is that he is not open so much as to negotiating the needs of others in order to get what he prefers. This means that anyone over whom he has power, and whom he misunderstands in their need or identity (think of the Bourne Identity), is, in effect, very disabled. Empathy is what initially drives acts of charity, but the tyrant feels that such acts are a sign of weakness, a lack of personal ambition. When he sees a random pedestrian subject getting run into by a diver subject (in a road system that has no formal traffic laws), he finds the tragedy unfortunate in terms only of his own position in the power structure:
 
if he happens to dislike the pedestrian (either as to directly known personhood or as to what impression merely he gets of the pedestrian by how the pedestrian looks), and if he does not know the driver, then he feels vindicated against the pedestrian;
 
if he happens to like the driver for personal advantage, and if he does not know the pedestrian, then he feels that the pedestrian was simply in the drivers right-of-way;
 
or, if the driver is a commoner while the pedestrian is an 'important' person, then he surely will punish the driver to an inch of the driver's life;
 
and otherwise all such misfortunes he simply ignores, even if he claims sole judge-ship over his subjects.




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Friday, January 28, 2011 - 4:52amSanction this postReply
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A society of the civil is one in which its socius is freely asked, not told.

A society created by forced association is anything but civil, though it might well be civic.

Adj. 1. civic - of or relating or belonging to a city


Via free association, 'relating to a city.'

Via forced association, 'belonging to a city.'

In a free nation, citizens do not 'belong to a city.'

In a totalitarian pisshole, citizens 'belong to a city' / the state.















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Friday, January 28, 2011 - 5:11amSanction this postReply
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Since the world is one in which there often is misunderstanding between persons, and between groups, the persons and groups who have the consistent disadvantage on the 'roadways of life' must be compensated for being 'run off the road'.

... in those instances where one was actually 'run off the road' by those from whom compensation is sought. But, simply being in the state 'off the road' is not evidence of being run off. Without that distinction, we are inviting the worst among us to actively participate in single car accidents on their way to 'compensation.'


Abuses to one's social generosity should not be what determines how one interacts with others, including taking effort for hope of conveying values which one thinks someone may be missing.

... especially, the values that actually determine whether one remains on the road or off of it.


When a tree branch falls in our path and runs us off the road, that is neither our or any actors fault, and the term 'compensation' does not apply. Insurance, maybe. Charity, maybe. But, charity is either granted or asked for, not assumed. And when we drink and drive and literally run ourselves off of the road with our flawed value system, that is our own fault, our own responsibility, and certainly does not create an ethical obligation for 'compensation' by others.

The assumption that every act of being off the road is the result of having been actively run off it by those on the road, resulting in an ethical obligation for 'compensation' would grant a faulty carte blanche to the worst among us. As would a state that allowed its guns of governance to enforce such an assumption.

In a free society, socius are free to ask and to judge the circumstances of being off road. Otherwise, we risk the enabling of values not supportive of remaining on the road.




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Friday, January 28, 2011 - 8:07amSanction this postReply
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Dan,

Since the world is one in which there often is misunderstanding between persons, and between groups, the persons and groups who have the consistent disadvantage on the 'roadways of life' must be compensated for being 'run off the road'.
Do you have any concrete examples?

Ed




Post 7

Tuesday, October 18, 2011 - 9:32amSanction this postReply
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I found this link disturbing, especially since it says:

The end of all education should surely be service to others. —Cesar Chavez

At least it did not cite Hugo Chavez.



Post 8

Tuesday, October 18, 2011 - 6:51pmSanction this postReply
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You have a hard row to hoe.  Myself (often as as I forget my own advice on this) the suggestion is not to argue against this.  Better to offer positives for self-actualization.  "The goal of education is to maximize each student's potential for achievement."  That sort of thing...  You could dedicate your life to righting the capsized boat of NCSSM... I understand your motivation (I think) and I agree that you can accomplish a measurable outcome. 

Social service, service to others, is deeply engrained.  Ayn Rand said that she was challenging the ethics of 2500 years of moral philosophy.  How close did anyone get before her?  Utilitarianism?  That's thin broth...  Better to serve up something meaty than to complain that the vegetables are overdone, limp, and tasteless (yet again).

As much as you might want to rescue NCSSM, is there a more profitable investment for your own valuable time to achieve a similar goal?




Post 9

Wednesday, October 19, 2011 - 6:41amSanction this postReply
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It is all part of the larger program, MEM, and one where I can make a measurable difference. Already I have had students tell me they have thought twice about applying to NCSSM because of my posted material. That makes me feel good. Meanwhile, the North Carolina Governor's School, a six week summer program for gifted students, has met the ax at the hands of the state legislature. The alumni who fell in love with that godforsaken program currently are trying to raise funds to save it. I do not think they will make it. Whether I made a difference with my public critiques, I do not know.

The bottom line is that NCSSM is a perfect fit for some students, a suitable fit for others, and a disastrous fit for a few. I am participating in a subgroup aimed at helping the school to improve its overall strategy. This subgroup aims at helping incoming students to prepare better for the intense workload at NCSSM. That is a worthwhile endeavor that my sense of benevolence can support.



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