Thursday, March 24, 2011

The Shadow Knows: Part Five

The Shadow Knows

The Virtual Open University

Synopsis: The concept of the Shadow is a generalization and extension of the practice of forming a “shadow government” in a parliamentary system.

Western Civilization will soon face an existential crisis and may partially or completely collapse. The absolute limiting factor for the onset of the Discontinuity will be the failure of the modern welfare state due to demographic implosion, which will occur within a generation at most. Other factors may speed up the course of events, but there are too many variables to permit a precise prediction of the trajectory of the coming crisis.

To simplify the discussion, I have divided the Shadow up into seven overlapping functions:

1. Civil administration
2. Education (primary, secondary, and post-secondary)
3. The media and mass communications
4. Manufacturing and commerce
5. Legislative bodies
6. Law enforcement
7. The military

Shadows of each of these functions are already under construction within the distributed non-hierarchical networks now forming among people who are concerned about what lies ahead. I propose a systematic examination of the Shadow in hopes of making it more of a conscious enterprise, and thereby accelerating the trend.

Regular readers are familiar with the range of topics covered by Fjordman in his essays. The link on our sidebar to the “Fjordman Files” leads to articles on Multiculturalism, Islamization, politics, history, archaeology, optics, population genetics, beer, chocolate, climate, astronomy, cosmology, and many other topics. Fjordman’s breadth of knowledge is nothing short of phenomenal.

One of Fjordman’s intentions in digesting and summarizing so much material about Western Civilization is to provide what he calls a “virtual Lindisfarne” — a compendium of general knowledge that can become part of a repository of all that is good and useful and beautiful within our culture. When the lights begin to wink out across the West, we will need the equivalent of the ancient monastic communities to nurture the seeds of a successor civilization. The virtual Lindisfarne may be digital, printed, or hand-copied — depending on how far we fall from our current state — but above all it will require a network of educated people with the expertise and the tools to pass on their knowledge and skills.

One of the reasons that we are facing a Discontinuity is that the educational systems in all Western countries have been systematically degraded since early in the 20th century. The deterioration accelerated after 1975, when the “sixty-eighters” came online in our major cultural institutions. Most children grow up and graduate from today’s universities without obtaining an education that would compare favorably with that of a high school graduate in 1920.

When I was a teenager in the 1960s, modern educational fads had already infected American school systems. Yet Civics was still taught in my junior high school, as was history — real history, not multicultural and gender-normed history. We all had to study a foreign language and read Shakespeare.

A generation earlier, before Dewey and the Progressives had had their way with American education, Latin was part of the standard curriculum in my father’s public high school. Every student who graduated was expected to read Chaucer in Middle English, to learn ancient and modern history, and to be competent in geometry, algebra, trigonometry, and the experimental sciences.

Virtually no remnant of this pedagogical excellence remains in our public school systems. Youngsters who manage to become educated nowadays either attend private schools, or are homeschooled, or follow their own interests and educate themselves in their young adulthood. This last group is well-represented among Gates of Vienna readers — young people often send me emails with comments or questions, and to ask for suggestions for further reading.

So we know that the raw material for a Shadow educational system exists. The problem will be how to organize it and harness it so that it can help transmit the best of Western Civilization to those who survive the Discontinuity.

*   *   *   *   *   *   *   *   *   *   *   *   *   *   *

Fjordman’s work could serve as a valuable survey course covering the most important achievements of Western Civilization. At one point he jocularly referred to his collected writings as “European Accomplishments: The First 40,000 Years”.

His writings form an archival resource that could be used as a curriculum in an alternative educational system. Other such resources exist, and some of the best are designed to be used by parents with their homeschooled children.

Back in the early 1990s, when the future Baron was six or seven, we bought a big three-volume set called “The Volume Library”, which was designed to be a general reference work and source of course material for homeschoolers. It covered history, literature, geography, and the sciences at the high-school level. Its maps — especially the historical maps — were particularly excellent, and I still use that volume as a reference.

Later on in his homeschooling career, the fB used the Calvert Curriculum, which is one of the best and most well-known homeschooling curricula. It is often used by State Department employees overseas to educate their children when local alternatives are unavailable or inadequate. It has no political agenda, and its content resembles what the public schools used to teach back before they were ruined by progressive fads. It’s expensive, but worth it.

SchoolmarmMany other homeschooling resources are available, and the homeschooling sites (the Headmistress runs one of the best) can help point the way to them. The big question is: how can all this material be leveraged for use when the existing system ceases to function?

One of the books in The Little House on the Prairie series by Laura Ingalls Wilder features the establishment of a schoolhouse in a small farming settlement on the American frontier. When the population grew large enough, the farmers met and decided to set up a school for their children. The men passed the hat to collect enough money to hire a schoolmarm and the necessary basic materials, and then they pooled their resources and built the schoolhouse themselves. The children taught in schoolhouses like this one — both boys and girls — were expected to reach an eighth-grade level of proficiency before leaving to work full-time on the farm.

Does anyone believe that the quality of their education was lower than that received by those $15,000-per-year baggy-pants self-esteem factories that are turned out by our schools today?

How well do you think those eighth-grade farm boys would compare with the average high school graduate ca. 2010?

*   *   *   *   *   *   *   *   *   *   *   *   *   *   *

So we can assume that a combination of the homeschool and prairie-school model could carry our Shadow educational system through high school level. But what about university level?

The existing public education system is irremediably broken, right up through grad schools. With few exceptions, the corruption engendered by federal money has penetrated to every level, and even most private institutions are at least partially infected. The accreditation and credentialing regime — both for instructors and institutions — guarantees that no meaningful change can come from within, because no one who could possibly effect real change is allowed to become part of the system.

Yet it’s obvious to anyone who has read Fjordman’s works or those of other talented and well-informed writers on the web that the credentialing and accrediting scam is absolute nonsense. The most brilliant and valuable minds are generally not officially qualified to educate young people.

So we need to think about a new concept, a means of higher education that does an end run around the existing system, with no connection whatsoever to any accredited this or credentialed that. We don’t really need all that meaningless bumf — it’s just a way of slotting compliant drones into the existing system, which is on the verge of falling apart anyway.

That’s what got me thinking about the Virtual Open University.

If I were younger and smarter, I might be able to actually design a structure for it.* But even as it is, I can surmise some of the characteristics that would be needed by an effective replacement for our post-secondary educational system.

First of all, we wouldn’t have any of the “no grades” nonsense. There would need to be a workable system for evaluating the progress of participants and assigning their scores. This is one of the highest hurdles involved, because it is so easy to cheat and game the existing systems — the VOU would have to address this issue.

Fjordman’s works provide a valuable outline of the content needed, but how could that content be imparted to students in a measurable way outside of a traditional university setting?

Who would design course materials? How would instructors be found?

And what about the experimental sciences? How would they be handled?

And the biggest question of all: Who will pay for all this?

It could all be done a lot cheaper than it is now — one assumes a student could get a better education from the VOU than can be had at the most prestigious Ivy League edifice, and at a small fraction of the price — but it would still cost money. Servers, software (much of which already exists, thank goodness), site administrators, course writers, graders, etc. — there would be a lot of infrastructure involved.

But if it could be done properly — if there were a way to impart a real education for a change — eventually the VOU would be greatly in demand, and would develop its own prestige, so that a lack of accreditation under the existing regime would be moot. A “Virtual Open University certificate” would become a coveted sign of accomplishment, much as a summa cum laude from William and Mary or Harvard used to be, back when we actually educated our young people.

*   *   *   *   *   *   *   *   *   *   *   *   *   *   *

All of the above is pure speculation. I don’t know enough to be able to begin to design an alternative educational system, nor whether there are enough people of the right caliber available to make it work.

But I know we need it. And we may need an actual face-to-face version of the new University. If we’re going to plan, we should plan on how to do the same thing with nothing but teachers and books and blackboards and pencils and paper. And maybe electric lights, if we’re still lucky enough to have them.

I’m not trying to design the thing itself. I’m trying to stir up thought and conversation about it, so that one day people with minds that are younger and wiser than my own might be able to grab the idea and run with it.

So let’s hear from all interested parties — join the conversation.

It’s virtual. It’s open. And it’s universal.

* Yes, I’m aware that there are many online educational institutions, of varying quality. But is far as I know, there is none that comes anywhere near the Fjordman standard of erudition.

Previous posts about the Shadow:

2011 Mar 15 The Shadow Knows, Part One: The Discontinuity
    16 The Shadow Knows, Part Two: Additional Economic Background
    17 The Shadow Knows, Part Three: Survival Plus
    19 The Shadow Knows, Part Four: Civil Administration


EscapeVelocity said...

I do think it is important work that fjordman is doing. A positive self-loving historical narrative is necessary for Western Civilization. Our education systems are filled with hatefilled screeds, condemnations, demonizations, self hatred....promoting "Others" views of our history. That only serves to undermine our Civilization and destroy it.

Good work Fjordman.

EscapeVelocity said...

I mean who the hell would want to assimilate to a culture of the most vile oppressors in the history of the planet, as according to their own history they are just that. The Left has created a history of Western Civilization that amounts to a never ending series of hate crimes and crimes against humanity, suppressor of science and discovery, and not the culture that supported and advanced science to heights far surpassing any in history.

M. Stirner said...

Virtual pedagogy has the potential to be profoundly disruptive (and scalable). All the vested interests in the education establishment will of course oppose such innovations, leaving them easy pickings for those who wish to adapt such tools for pro-Civilization purposes.

I would imagine such a system along the following lines:

The metrics and infinite patience of a system like ALEKS:
180 bucks a year!

The record once, teach many model of the Khan Academy:

For those who are more interested in conventional chalk-and-talk instruction, it is worth googling "Direct Instruction" and "Project Follow Through". You will find that curriculum design can have measurable effects on elevating the performance of all students. Alas, if evenly applied it cannot do anything to close gaps in performance between racial groups, so such approaches have been thrown down the memory hole by the education establishment.

EscapeVelocity said...

Im a big proponent of older history books. I dont know how it works in Europe but pre 60s history textbooks (even 60s work as the Left hadnt taken over the Universities yets and the education institutions) are great sources for teaching materials.

Even at that the Civil War had already been twisted, as well as FDR's New Deal praising.


Just wanted to add along with my above commentary, that any and every other culture on this planet is praised to glory for their contributions to humanity, greatness, sweetness and light, deep wisdom and nobility, these days.

I mean if you are European, and all you knew about European History is what the K-12 teaches you in the US, you would hate your cultural heritage, and be ashamed to have European heritage. Guilt is heeped upon you, and you are to be appropriately repentetent...else you may be frowned upon.

Anne-Kit said...

Just a thought: Media and mass communication, manufacturing, online education ... this all assumes our energy delivery systems are still functioning.

What if they are not? Our energy grids are extremely vulnerable to disruption, whether malicious or accidental, and if civilization collapses I doubt very much we would still have access to electricity, at least universally.

Just a thought ...

Prospero said...

Perhaps our goal should be designing
the curricula online, yet hard -copying at the same time. Forest preservation is not of primary concern, yes?

Although I love my Kindle, nothing can replace the books I treasure and collect. Many of the classics(non-redacted) are still available. Let others call we book collectors Luddites. I still have something to read and study when the lights go out.

trencherbone said...

How Islam feeds off Western self-loathing in Marxist-dominated academia.

Sagunto said...

Baron -

Thank you for yet another wonderful installment in this series. About the university system, I'd say you might get some good advice in some unexpected quarters. Go to a Church, preferrably one where the pre-Vatican-II spirit is well alive (for instance where the full Latin Mass is celebrated). Maybe someone over there still knows how it could be done (in the off-line version), like they did it in Europe in the 11th/12th centuries. I like the Lindisfarne concept very much, and to add to the involvement of the Church in building Western civilization, we might also still benefit from the thoughts of the late scholastics, who where the first to systematically theorize about free markets.

Kind regs from Amsterdam,

bewick said...

Quite apart from the quality and truth of the item I was moved by "virtual Lindisfarne"
The physical Lindisfarne is just a 1 hour drive from me and I go there from time to time when the tides allow and I feel the need for a bit of spirituality.
Certainly a spiritual island and the comparison is well chosen.

Road_Hog said...

@EscapeVelocity said...

"Im a big proponent of older history books. I dont know how it works in Europe but pre 60s history textbooks"

In the UK we have the same problem, the following are the only things that must be included in history and geography.

"At present, the only historical figures in the entire secondary history curriculum are William Wilberforce, the architect of the abolition of the slave trade, and Olaudah Equiano, a freed slave whose autobiography helped persuade MPs to ban slavery.

The secondary geography curriculum does not mention a single country apart from the UK or any continents, rivers, oceans, mountains or cities. It does, however, mention the European Union and global warming."

Queen said...

One thing I have found effective in arguing with Leftists who demean the West is to use their own arguments against them. It's really rather simple to disarm them ideologically. First, they are always so predictable in what they will say, so you can have your come-backs ready even before they finish typing (or speaking.)

For example, learning the histories of other civilizations and using their excesses against Leftists' usual arguments that Westerners need to be "punished" for all the evils of our evil, evil civilization: "I think modern day Turks should be 'punished' for the Armenian massacre by having their country destroyed by open borders and multiculturalism, don't you?" or "I think modern day Mexicans should be 'punished' because their ancestors murdered hundreds of thousands of people in barbaric human sacrifice rituals, don't you? And one suitable punishment would be to make them stay in their own country instead of invading ours."

The Leftist always sputters indignantly that Turks and Mexicans should not be punished for the crimes against humanity committed by their ancestors. . .then you say, "Aha, isn't that true for Westerners also?" This literally makes their heads start spinning (metaphorically speaking) like Linda Blair in the Excorcist.

Another tactic that is useful when they bring up reparations for slavery, crimes against Native Americans, etc., is to say, "Okay, you want reparations, that's fair enough. In the same spirit of fairness, we want royalties for all the good things that our ancestors gave to the world, isn't that fair also?. Westerners invented nearly all modern conveniences, vaccines and medicines (and in many cases, we paid for vaccines and medical advances to be disstributed free of charge to the Non-Western world), and we think it's fair that we get a dollar for say, every time a Non-Westerner turns on their computer and accesses the Internet, or every time a non-Westerner vaccinates his kid against polio and smallpox."

We are just way too defensive about the continual ideological attacks our civilization. We need to go on the offensive. It's good to bring up the fact that Arabs were in the African slave trade three times longer than we were, but it's better to advocate that Arabs be "punished" for their slavery sins if Westerners are to be "punished" also.

Leftists, of course, will never agree to "punish" Arabs, Mexicans or Turks for slavery or genocide or wars of conquest. This is because leftists are anti-white racists who live in a bubble world where all "others" are morally upright agents united in peaceful suffering and solidarity against the depredations of the evil white Christian man (and woman.)The fact that Arab muslims were slavers in Africa, committed wars of genocide against innocent Africans in order to collect more slaves, and also committed racial genocide against African slaves by castrating all the males--Leftists/multiculturalists simply cannot digest that kind of information.

Baron Bodissey said...

Anne-Kit --

Actually, every one of these topics will consider the possibility that some or all of our current technological superstructure may cease functioning. Notice that I mentioned pencil, paper, and blackboards in the above discussion.

Just for the sake of argument, I assume that at least part of our advanced technology will still function, at least intermittently. That includes an electric grid, but perhaps available only part of the time, the way it works in many Third World countries today -- 4 or 5 hours of electricity a day, during which time one can bathe, read, recharge batteries, etc.

A post-EMP scenario is not part of these assumptions. This isn't because I think an EMP is unlikely to occur -- I think the probability of one is disturbingly high -- but because the aftermath is too awful to contemplate. My mind just doesn't want to go there... so it doesn't.

Baron Bodissey said...

Sagunto --

I quite agree, and when times become straitened, I assume that people will rediscover the appeal of religious belief.

Unfortunately, the way we're setting things up, when the time comes the only easily available religious belief may be Islam -- a sobering thought.

We may get the rule of the mullahs in the ruins of the West, no matter what we do. Nevertheless, avoiding that execrable eventuality remains my goal.

Sagunto said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
Sagunto said...

Well, Baron -

..let it be a comfort then, to know that Islam has precious little to do with religious belief, at least, not in my book ;-)

And may I add and perhaps clarify, that I was thinking of the Church in a way that I hope transpired through the quote I gave (by prof. Raeder) in the "Sex.."-thread. The rediscovery of the Church in the historical sense, as a cultural and spiritual power of a higher order than man-made government, instilling in common people like us the religious belief that much of human life transcends (or should transcend) the power and political hubris of the state. The Church therefore as a crucial factor in providing Western man with the traditional idea of individual freedom-under-law, that nowadays seems to have lost its appeal due to "community cohesion" via the "liberal" cult of "the religion of humanity", that de facto transforms politicians into gods.

A rediscovery also, of the pivotal and central role that the Church played in building Western Civilization. I purposely don't speak of the all encompassing "Christianity" here (for that would include its sometimes destructive and iconoclastic sects, past and present), but of "the Church" that - apart from giving us the medieval university, was also instrumental in passing on the great legacy of ancient Rome and Athens, without the slavery of "old Europe" that was a result of the ancient warfare empires.

Kind regs from Amsterdam,

Baron Bodissey said...

Sag. --

Yes, I am in general agreement with you about the Church as an institutional force, and as a counterbalance to the overweening power of the State, which is the affliction of our time.

I am not enamored of the current incarnation of the Catholic Church, since much of the hierarchy is both corrupt and dhimmified, and acts as an enabler of multicultural madness. Still, it is one of the few major institutions we have left that has not been totally hollowed out by nihilism.

Because my work here requires me to break bread among publicans and sinners, as it were, I tend not to emphasize institutional Christianity. Most of our readers are secularists to varying degrees. Some of them are quite orthodox and militant, and the very mention of Christian institutions can send them fleeing from the virtual room, yelling the T-word ("Theocrat!") as they slam the door behind themselves.

We must work with the material we have. I am absolutely ineffective as a Christian proselytizer, so I don't attempt to change people's minds about Christianity. Far better that I use the limited gifts God gave me as well as I can.

Sagunto said...

Baron -

"I am not enamored of the current incarnation of the Catholic Church"

Me neither. H. L. Mencken has a wonderful quote about his admiration of the Latin Church, and I stand by that. Meanwhile, as an agostic myself (doing very little about it lately), I must confess to a certain admiration for the courage of B-16 in his - sometimes all too subtle - opposition to Islam. I have more sympathy for the pre-Vatican-II Church than for today's (and most certainly tremendous admiration for one of the few true heroes of the 20th century, Pius XII), but in Holland, public discourse in those days was dominated by a very peculiar French-styled and sugar-coated catholic morale that could be disqualified as being a "feminizing" force ;-)

So whenever I give the Church credit where it is due, I do it purely from a historical perspective. That's why I always like to emphasize the role of the medieval Church. That in no way amounts to proselytizing for today's Vatican. If anything, I'd like the Church of today to rediscover its past role as an opposing force to political aspirations of false prophets and its role as the sponsor of independent science and culture, as well as its pioneering role in discovering free market economy.

I am far less interested in matters of faith and theology an sich. Perhaps it is even so that, related to the issue at hand, i.e. the survival of Western Civilization, I should face the fact that for the reasons I mentioned, I have more belief in the Church (of times past) than in Christ, to use a bit of hyperbole here.

Now let me try to dismount this little hobby horse of mine and let it rest a while..

Kind regs from Amsterdam,

Sagunto said...

Hmm, "agostic", has a somewhat nostalgic flavour to it..

Elan-tima said...

My best suggestion is for everyone to get the oldest dictionaries they can get their hands on so you can still retain more reasonable descriptions of words that have been dumbed down or PC sanitized or removed to the un-word dustbin of history. The farther you go back the better the education you'll receive.

Michael Servetus said...

It just occured to me that in such a scenario, Muslims already in America are likely to do well. First they already come from squalid conditions and know how to live like that and survive and even thrive. Second they have international connections and support groups. Third they are already practiced in the art of parallel societal living and are pretty much independent in that they eat their own types of food frequent their own businesses. Lstly they already champoin their own education. All these add up to the contunued danger. They also already have the raid and pillage playbook.

urah2222 said...

Baron - in the "Shadow Education" area, let us ALL commit to the reintroduction of "PHONICS" as the basis of teaching reading. As reading is taught today, it is more appropriate to the teaching of Chinese than English.

Dr. Shalit

acuara said...

this sounds reminiscent of Fahrenheit 451 where at the end our hero was given a chapter in Deuteronomy to memorize as part of hte collective memory after our protaganist's town of Chicago was nuked.

Jewel said...

Ecclesiastes, acuara. He was given the book of Ecclesiastes to memorize...if memory serves me correctly.

Loren said...

You don't necessarily need a single massive virtual online university. In fact, having two or three would probably be better for a variety of reasons.

Additionally, there should be schools focusing on the technical fields, rather than just the advanced university fields.

For the transitional periods, how do I, as an employer, ensure that a VOU has truly provided the knowledge I need in an employee? Such vetting could be online too, but should be independent of those who seek to provide the education.

Baron Bodissey said...

Loren --

You're quite right, and this is pretty much what I was thinking of, although I didn't make it sufficiently clear.

A single top-down entity would not only be contrary to the "distributed network" model, but it would probably never be workable. We would need various specialized institutes, anyway.

VOU would be more like an association or guild designation, representing a group of loosely associated enterprises.

And yes: vetting agencies would need to be independent. The niche for them could be filled by enterprising folks when the demand became sufficient. It would be sort of like the Snopes model -- independent evaluation, relying for their business success on a reputation for accuracy. (And yes, I know that Snopes is not reliable on political "urban legends" -- not even close.)

Dedicated_Dad said...

A most excellent post - as I've learned to expect from you.

I've read chapters 2-5 in one sitting this evening, and typed an (all too) long comment for #4 which I saved offline and abandoned due to fatigue. I ended up reading this one anyway, and I was particularly stricken by a "great minds..." moment I think deserves comment.

What follows is a direct cut-and-paste from my comment intended for #4...

"...First of all, in today's degraded 'education system', a 4-year degree is almost mandatory if one is to gain an actual education equivalent to what I received from High-school 30-ish years ago.

Likewise, my HS education didn't give me much that my Grandfather hadn't absorbed by the end of the 8th grade.

My children are stereotypical 'overachievers', in large part because I taught them to read while also teaching them toilet-skills, demanded they correct mistakes even after grading, set strict rules of 'work before play' and otherwise inculcated 'old-school' habits and values into them from infancy..."

Further - and MOST importantly - I taught them the one thing most critical to real success, and the one thing most verboten in "public education" -- I taught them to reason, to think. In fact, I DEMANDED it.

In order to accomplish this, one must subscribe to the "hate me now, love me later" school of parenting, which is yet another facet that goes against the grain of our pathetic, corrupted culture - but I digress...

Thanks for your continued efforts - you're doing far more good than you can possibly realize...