Saturday, December 26, 2009

Posted Elsewhere: Justice and Parenting

The concept of "justice"--within the context of relationships--means identifying a person for what he is, using every relevant fact available, and acting accordingly.

This includes a parent identifying certain traits in their children that make them entirely lovable--traits such as the seriousness with which they set upon the task of learning how this world works; their independent, (sometimes brutally) honest evaluations of nearly everything; and their generally benevolent view of this world and the place they (expect to) have in it.

It involves acting according to these identifications (and many more), while identifying that certain facts (such as whether they've eaten their veggies lately) aren't relevant here, and it involves clearly identifying that one's response to these characteristics is love.

"Love," Ayn Rand identified, "is the expression of one's values, the greatest reward you can earn for the moral qualities you have achieved in your character and person, the emotional price paid by one man for the joy he receives from the virtues of another."

Justice also requires acting accordingly, which here means a parent showing their love in simple ways throughout the year and perhaps on special days (like Christmas) giving gifts--as an expression of the love their kids have earned and because, like you said, it's fun to see one's kids happily enjoying something.

In the same way that your love for your kids is a reward, using a standard definition for that term, even though you disagree with it, I also think you show your kids that good behavior is rewarded by others, even though you may teach the opposite.

Again, if the concept of "reward" is used in the sense that Rand used it above, "to reward" means "to recompense" and a "reward" is--as I have defined it recently--"something given or received in response to or recompense for some action."

You may not agree with this definition, but so defined, every "thank you" given your child is spiritual payment for an action taken, as is every smile you give them in response to some achievement of theirs that fills you with happiness, as is your very love for them (let alone the holiday gifts that are but one expression of it).

This is long, so rather than state the material rewards that are equivalent to the spiritual ones noted above, I should say that I think rewarding in this way is an entirely good thing.

Kids need to learn how to evaluate others and how to respond to good and bad actions (or people) in a proper fashion. A child who learns what justice is and how to apply it has a tool for living that'll help him make many good choices in the future, in response to the "rewards" of others. And all this is true whether he wants to live in a bubble or not, whether they do so from a standard he chooses or not, and so on.

Friday, December 25, 2009

How to Understand (and Savor) Great Art

This short clip is taken from a longer presentation on the art curriculum at the oh-so-wonderful VanDamme Academy.

I recommend watching it in full, but wanted to highlight this portion of it because it made me remember an Edgar Allen Poe quote (from the Purloined Letter):

"When I wish to find out how wise or how stupid or how good or how wicked is anyone, or what are his thoughts at the moment, I fashion the expression of my face, as accurately as possible, in accordance with his, and then wait to see what thoughts or sentiments arise in my mind or heart, as if to match or correspond with the question."

Travers has taken the full pedagogical value of this quote and applied it to great effect at VanDamme Academy. Those watching this short presentation might be able to use it to get more enjoyment out of art than they otherwise would.

I myself got the quote from a book called Emotions Revealed--which, though it was not its main purpose, has increased the enjoyment I get out of art manifold.

Again, if you want to experience art, if but briefly, in all its life-enhancing glory, watch this presentation from the start. But remember this quote, along with the method presented, and I suspect you will begin to savor many great works of art that in the past you might not have even glanced twice at.

Saturday, December 12, 2009

Define Your Terms

I offered a definition of "reward" in the comments section of a previous post and wanted to bring it front and center--for comments. Here it is again: a reward is something given or received in response to or recompense for some action.

Notice that this is very close to the standard dictionary definitions for the term. The Free Dictionary, for instance, defines the term as something given or received in recompense for worthy behavior or in retribution for evil acts.

Central to the concept of reward is compensation, or justice. The concept is wide enough to include responses to good or bad actions. And it leaves open what is good or bad (as it should given that it's a broad definition).

Some examples: paying a salary to an adult for providing work agreed to, paying a child an allowance for doing the same, buying a friend a beer in honor of a good story told, buying a toy for a child in exchange for demonstrating some skill, celebrating an achievement with anyone for something great, and so on.

The concept of reward, broadly defined, also leaves open who or what (in the case of reality) is providing something in response to some action. In any case, given the above definition, to be anti-reward, literally means to be against giving or receiving something in response to or recompense for some action.

While agreeing that a child's primary feedback should come from reality, I will be making an argument (at some point) that there is nothing wrong with rewards--so defined--and that there is nothing wrong with incentives either.

As a preview, here's a brief point: Some grown-ups never have the experience of getting paid for something they love to do. When they do get paid to do that thing which they love they do not become second-handed or focus on the payback. They love it all the more, because what gives them happiness internally improves their situation externally (in this case more money to spend). Letting kids experience this seems like a good--and not a bad--thing. Especially within a proper context.

Friday, December 4, 2009

Questioning HR 3962

John David Lewis has done it again. He's made a list of important questions for, and text passages from, HR 3962. To these, I'd only add a few questions of my own--that some of you may want to ask the bill's supporters.

1. A proper government recognizes the right of each individual to act toward the pursuit of his own happiness and to keep the justly earned fruits of his labor. Does the current bill recognize this right or does it violate it?

2. Is my right to act on the judgment of my own mind, and to do what I want to with my own money, inalienable and inviolate--or is it dependent on the current health status of my neighbor?

3. Any moral standard that justifies the sacrifice of freedom and nullifies the basic requirements of human life is, in principle, anti-life and pro-death. Will you question, for once, the nature and ultimate purpose of this moral code, or will you evade the bloody history of the past century and support the next move forward of this once-free country into a totalitarian state?