It is important to understand Islam from a cultural point of view because the basis of much of the current turmoil within Muslim countries and conflict with their neighbors can be attributed to cultural clashes. Consequently, a clear understanding of culture and its derivatives is necessary to comprehend the relevance of Islam to the civilization of Muslim peoples in the twentieth century and beyond.
The word “culture” comes from the Latin cultura, which is a derivative of the verb colere meaning “tending” or “cultivation.” It was first recorded in the Oxford Dictionary of English in 1510 as meaning: “training of the mind” or “manners.” However, culture in anthropological usage, may be defined as “the way of life of specific group.”
“Basically, the idea of culture arises from the observation that what human beings do and what they refrain from doing is, in part, a consequence of being brought up in one group as opposed to another. People have a social heredity as well as a biological heredity.”
Biological heredity represents practices common to all human societies, like, sleep, marriage, care for children and smiling, while social heredity refers to customs which usually vary from one society to the next. A simple definition of culture would then be ‘the man-made part of the human environment.’ “Members of the human species are trained in the family and in their education, formal and informal, to behave in ways that are conventional and fixed by tradition.”
While virtually all students of man agree upon the indispensable importance of the concept of culture, no single definition has yet won universal acceptance.
The culture of most of the world today is that of Western Europe and America. It was exported to the remainder of the world during the period of European colonization and continued during the neo-colonial era by way of indirect rule. In the twentieth century Western culture has been promoted on a massive scale through the far-reaching effects of the media. Today, it is not surprising to find in the pages of National Geographic pictures of South American Indian youths in loin cloth in the middle of the Amazon wearing baseball caps with a Nike logo or Mongolian horsemen in the middle of the Gobi Desert wearing striped Adidas sweat pants and Rebook trainers.
Western culture now represents the dominant cultural influence in most countries, both non-Muslim and Muslim. And it is the natural conflict that arises from the clash of cultures, which dominate the social and political policies in both the West and the East. Harvard University Professor, Samuel P. Huntington summed up the essential issues of the cultural clash in his following observation.
“The underlying problem for the West is not Islamic fundamentalism. It is Islam, a different civilization whose people are convinced of the superiority of their culture and are obsessed with the inferiority of their power. The problem for Islam is not the CIA or the U.S. department of defense. It is the West, a different civilization whose people are convinced of the universality of their culture and believe that their superior, if declining, power imposes on them the obligation to impose that culture throughout the world. These are the basic ingredients that fuel conflict between Islam and the West.”
In this statement Professor Huntington dismisses the usual claims regarding Islamic fundamentalist terrorism as the major threat to the New World Order. Western media constantly reduces the world’s problems to this common denominator. The New York Times carried an article stating, “Muslim fundamentalism is fast becoming the chief threat to global peace and security as well as the cause of national and local disturbance through terrorism. It is akin to the menace posed by Nazism and fascism in the 1930’s and then by communism in the 50’s.”
However, Professor Huntington brushes such claims aside and identifies Islam itself as the main problem for the West because its civilization is fundamentally different from Western civilization. He also identified two distinct qualities of Muslims, which, in his opinion, contribute to the problem. The first is that Muslims consider their culture superior to all other cultures. Most Muslims will openly claim that Islam is better than all other religions and philosophies. This attitude is a natural consequence of their belief that the religion of Islam was revealed from God. It is only logical to assume that the culture created by practicing God’s religion must, of necessity, be superior to any culture resulting from human experiment.
The other quality is that Muslims desire that the laws that govern them be Islamic. Much of the turmoil in the Muslim world today, in Algeria, Egypt, Chechnya, Dagestan, etc., is a direct result of this desire. During the era of European colonization of the Muslim world, the colonial administration substituted European laws for Islamic law. During the neo-colonial era, Muslims who were trained by their colonial masters were given the reins of government of Muslim territories and continued to govern according to European law. Today the vast majority of Muslim governments rule according to British, French, German and Dutch laws, and Muslim law is only partially applied in the area of family law.
Consequently, as the wave of Islamic awareness sweeps over the Muslim world, the aspiration of Muslims for self-determination has exploded in a series of violent confrontations with existing administrations. In places like Indonesia, where since the era of Sukarno (1945 – 1965) and his successor Suharto (1968 – 1998), Pancasilia, has been the state philosophy/religion taught in all schools to the population of some 200 million Indonesians, 95% of whom are Muslims. And, to suggest that Islamic law be introduced was considered an act of treason.
In 1998 Suharto was finally overthrown by popular dissent. All of those who clamored for power, including Suharto’s henchman and substitute, B.J. Habibe, immediately began paying some allegiance to Islam. And in recent elections, Sukarno’s daughter, Megawati Sukarnoputri, was decisively defeated by Nahdlatul Ulama’s Abdurrahman Wahid, who is half-blind and can hardly walk.
On the other hand, Professor Huntington negates the Central Intelligence Agency (CIA) as the chief enemy of Muslims. Although the CIA has a reputation for toppling governments and assassinating political figures, the professor assures Muslims that it is not their chief enemy. He further rules out the American military complex in spite of its presence in Saudi Arabia, its decimation of the Iraqi army, its launching cruise missiles into the Sudan and Afghanistan, and its open support for Israel.
The real source of the problem facing the Muslim World, according to Professor Huntington, is Western civilization itself. He further explains that the root of the problem lies in the fact that the West considers its culture superior to all other cultures. It considers its civilization and its leading principles what all human beings should aspire for and live by.
Because, according to Darwinian theory, the evolutionary process refines and improves human beings and their society. From our supposed savage ape-like origins to twentieth century civility, human society has progressed relentlessly. During the last few centuries, the evolutionary principle of “survival of the fittest” appears to have placed Western nations and their culture at the top of the pyramid of human civilization.
Thus, claims the West, the foundational principles of their civilization must be the most suitable for human society. Professor Huntington takes the issue another step further, pointing out that the West not only considers its culture the most appropriate for all nations, but it considers itself duty bound to impose their culture by any means necessary, politically or militarily, on the rest of the world. Professor Huntington has correctly identified these as the essential elements of the cultural clash facing the world as it enters the 21st century.
One of our greatest problems still remains the inability of the religious world to cut through its own orthodoxies to the arrival at some point of common vision or insight.
The goal of religion is to establish an inner strength against all exterior circumstances. The nature of God is truth, beauty, love and joy. These are divine qualities, and the universe in which we live was founded upon these great spiritual principles. Yet we accepting these as true, still do not experience in our own life the wonderful inward composure of spirit that comes from the simple acceptance that God is good.
Perhaps one of the reasons we have trouble with this situation is that we mistake the works of men for the works of God. We live surrounded by a peculiar confusion of our own kind-a confusion that is rooted largely in the inability of devout persons to find beauty in their own devotion. Most religions emphasize a certain stern sense of duty so therefore, religion has come to be a more or less militant dedication.
The individual feels that he must come under a very strict administration by the universe; that his spiritual salvation depends upon the unquestionable obedience to something that is superior to himself, which he cannot and does not rightly define. So instead of religion bringing a great release of spiritual values, it has a tendency to bring submergence, a state of the individual being tied to some credo, and this cannot be entirely the beautiful thing, which we sense it to be.
Practically all-religious people believe that God is love, but they do not believe it sufficiently to find God’s love in the things that are. They believe in some way that an evil power has corrupted God’s love, and that there must be some great process of redemption by means of which it can be restored again. There is a process of redemption but it is nothing but an awakening. It is a waking up again into the life that is eternal.
This whole thing is a strange world of delusions in which individuals try to delude each other with only reasonable success, and manage to delude themselves with greater success. And in this delusion, everything that is really fine and happy and good and joyful is sacrificed. It is like a strange intoxication of the alcoholic, in which his toxicity causes him to finally to fall into the terrors of delirium tremens.
To most people of antiquity, God had the implication of great Joy, and this is something we seem to have lost. In the sense of responsibility and duty, we have in some way lost the happiness, and have been unable to make our faith an immediately beautiful, joyful experience of conduct. We affirm these things we believe that Deity wants us to be happy, but we do not seem to find a way of being happy. The moment it looks as though we might be happy, we become conscience-stricken, for nearly all of our so-called daily happiness is so selfish and self-centered that we can scarcely justify our own attitudes.
God wanted to be made manifest in man. God wanted to know himself in man. God wanted to release all the good, beauty, the truth, the love, and the joy through man. These different releases were not evil things if we understand them correctly and build our lives in which good brought joy, truth brought happiness and wisdom brought peace of soul.
Recognizing that the dictionary is the expression of our usage of words, we can check the word happiness to see what the dictionary has to say about it. The first definition given is “good fortune and prosperity.” Now this is exactly what we would expect, for it is typical of our idea of what constitutes happiness. Happiness is having more than the neighbor, a certain smug sense of satisfaction at some phase of real or assumed superiority. Happiness today comes to the individual who wins in some kind of a competition with others. It also has to do something with luck, according to this definition “good fortune” some sudden unexpected pleasure that comes to us, perhaps out of space which we are all looking for but which the majority of us never find.
This happiness therefore simply means a certain creature reaction it is the individual who says, “I am perfectly willing to smile and be happy if everything goes my way. If I have what I want, do as I please, and influence other people as much as I want to, I will be happy.” One thing that happiness must require today is a vast amount of forgetfulness. If we could forget our own past, forget everything that other people have done to us, and forget all the mistakes that we have made, the result would probably be a colossal peace of mind; but we cannot forget these things.
The idea that happiness is simple the result of status – the larger swimming pool, the better car, the larger home- these things can no longer be regarded as valid. Yet this is where the dictionary takes its first stand, because it means just that to most people, and words have no meanings except the usage that we give them. When an individual tells us they are happy, it almost certainly means that they have been favored in some way by circumstances outside themselves, that something desirable or pleasurable has happened to them from the outside.
The dictionary does however; give us a second meaning for happiness, and that is, “a state of well-being.” Now, if the truth were known, that should have been the first definition, because a state of well-being must precede any effort to be happy. It really does not make much difference whether fortune smiles or not; unless the individual has some experience of well-being within himself, even the greatest gifts that nature can bestow, or the greatest success that can be attained, will not bring any real or lasting happiness. So happiness is a condition that must be cultivated through the establishment of a state of well-being.
We can talk about how to be happy until the end of time, and still be miserable. We can develop all kinds of reasons why we should be grateful, and still remain ungrateful. There has to be something more than in intellectualizing, or even a theologizing, of the idea. In theology, we are constantly reminded of the blessing that we receive from heaven, but very few people are very excited over these blessings because they are really still fighting desperately against the small personal miseries that beset them.
In order to discover happiness, we must have some kind of a vital experience of it within ourselves. There has to be a living kind of happiness, and the only way we can combat the experience of unhappiness is to set up the experience of happiness.
There used to be something of a gaiety, naturalness about growing up something that we have lost. As a result very few people have any vital experience of happiness. They have nothing to hook the happiness concept onto. Broken homes, depressions and insecurity have taken away the laughter, joy and close association with family. Because of these trends, which have become more and more dominant since we have depended so heavily upon artificial sources of pleasure, the average person today does not have the living inner visualization of happiness set within himself.
It becomes very easy for us to be critical and suspicious of other people, to be dissatisfied and rebellious, until finally we have developed one of the heaviest burdens of the present generation – hypercriticism. There is hardly a day when we do not criticize something. We seem to live in a world that suggests criticism, and although we can do nothing about it, still we become critics, constantly dissatisfied.
Out of this dissatisfaction comes a subtle form of self-excuse mechanism. Feeling that we live in a world that is topsy-turvy, in which nothing makes sense, we have a wonderful reasons to be poor citizens. We have every reason to excuse our own failings. We become victims of circumstances, and we say “How can one individual live well in a world that is going to pieces?”
One thing we do not realize in all of our thinking, however, is that this generation is not essentially different, in its basic problems, from the generations in which individuals did find a certain amount of security and peace of mind. We cannot hope that we can create entirely new solutions. We can create new solutions only if the problems that we face are new, but the problems that we face are not new. They are the eternal heritage of our kind.
We all want to live in a world in which we are happy but we also want a world tailored to our desires. We want the world to make us happy, to provide us with everything we need. We want to surround ourselves with situations that will give us happiness and pleasure. Of course, as long as everyone in the world feels that way, the complex gets more and more difficult, because each person trying to fulfill his own ambitions out of the reservoir of world materials ultimately comes into conflict with every other human being and the tensions simply increase and compound.
Happiness is not a matter of environment but of the adjustment of consciousness to the values of life; that the very things that make us unhappy could perhaps be the sources of happiness if we understood them correctly. Always complication destroys peace of mind, and without peace of mind, there is no real hope that any individual can be truly happy. Of course, we have our moments, but even in those moments the heavy burden of destiny hangs over us.
There have always been some who have realized that unhappiness was neither desirable nor necessary; so they have left us rules and patterns by which we could guide our way to a certain degree. A life to find happiness must be a life that has discriminated values. If we use our minds we come to one standard of value. If we use our hearts and our intuitions, we come to another standard of value, and it is this second standard that must come first. In order to know what happiness is, we must finally decide what will make us happy.
We all feel that when we can pay off the mortgage, we will be happy, when we can get that new car we will be happy. We have the simple feeling that if we have what we want, we will be happy. But what do we want? Above all things, we want freedom of fear. We want freedom from ignorance. We want freedom of faith. We want freedom of growth. Of all things we want freedom from insecurity within ourselves, freedom from mental and emotional sickness. We want freedom from the ills and weaknesses, which we recognize in our own natures. The only real freedoms the only real things that can bring us happiness are those attainments within ourselves by which we are free forever from the delusions and illusions that cause misery.
The most difficult and miserable adventure in the world is the desperate quest for personal happiness. The individual, who makes happiness their goal, will fail, because they usually have the wrong concept of what will make them happy. We have not yet realized that we have to be happy from within and that all other things are accidents and incidents- the elements of a providence that may change at any moment.
Pythagoras said, “all men know what they want, but only God knows what they need.” In our desperate effort to get what we want, we are miserable, we must therefore change to the concept of what we need, to what is most necessary to us. We live in a universe in which love and wisdom, and joy are the very substance out of which creation fashioned things. We live in a tremendous potential for good, and to realize this and cooperate with it, is to begin the unfoldment of our own lives.
The ancients believed there was only one life, the life of God. To live with love for this life was to live in peace with it; to live in hate and fear was to destroy God. The individual who hates and fears is the only true atheist. No one can hate, fear, and worship at the same time.
Happiness does not arise from copying other people because the things that make them happy might make us miserable. There has to be a universal happiness- something infinitely beyond the individual patterned pleasures which we recognize; and this happiness is the freedom of life in itself. It is not necessarily a theological state at all. It is the transference of our citizenship, an inner belonging to another world, so that the suddenly the world of realities becomes meaningful and we realize that this material creation floats as a bubble in an infinitely vaster spiritual creation; that far beyond anything we can estimate is the power of infinite love infinitely working.
Every word, which is used to express a moral or intellectual fact, if traced to its root, is found as borrowed from some material appearance.
Right means straight; wrong means twisted. Spirit primarily means wind; transgression, the crossing of a line; supercilious, the raising of the eyebrow. We say the heart to express emotion, the head to denote thought; and thought and emotion are words borrowed from sensible things, and now appropriated to spiritual nature. Most of the process by which this transformation is made, is hidden from us in the remote time when language was framed; but the same tendency may be daily observed in our children. Children and “savages” use only nouns or names of things, which they convert into verbs, and apply to analogous mental acts.
But this origin of all words that convey a spiritual import, — so conspicuous a fact in the history of language, — is our least debt to nature. It is not words only that are emblematic; it is things, which are emblematic. Every natural fact is a symbol of some spiritual fact. Every appearance in nature corresponds to some state of the mind, and that state of the mind can only be described by presenting that natural appearance as its picture.
For example, an enraged man is a lion, a cunning man is a fox, a firm man is a rock, a learned man is a torch. A lamb is innocence; a snake is subtle spite; flowers express to us the delicate affections. Light and darkness are our familiar expression for knowledge and ignorance; and heat for love. Visible distance behind and before us, is respectively our image of memory and hope.
Who looks upon a river in a meditative hour, and is not reminded of the flux of all things?
Throw a stone into the stream, and the circles that propagate themselves are the beautiful type of all influence.
Man is conscious of a universal soul within or behind his individual life, wherein, as in a firmament, the natures of Justice, Truth, Love, Freedom, arise and shine. This universal soul, which we call Reason: is not mine, or yours, or his or hers, but we are its; we are its property and men and women.
And the blue sky in which the private earth is buried, the sky with its eternal calm, and full of everlasting orbs, is the type of Reason. That which, intellectually considered, we call Reason, considered in relation to nature, we call Spirit. Spirit is the Creator. Spirit has life in itself. And man in all ages and countries, embodies it in his language, as the FATHER.
It is easily seen that there is nothing lucky or capricious in these analogies, but that they are constant, and pervade nature. These are not the dreams of a few poets, here and there, but we are analogists, and study relations in all objects. We are placed in the center of beings, and a ray of relation passes from every other being to us. And neither can we be understood without these objects, nor these objects without us.
All the facts in natural history taken by themselves, have no value, but are barren, like a single sex. But marry it to human history, and it is full of life. Because of this radical correspondence between visible things and human thoughts, savages, who have only what is necessary, conversed in figures.
As we go back in history, language becomes more picturesque, until its infancy, when it is all poetry; or all spiritual facts are represented by natural symbols. The same symbols are found to make the original elements of all languages. It has moreover been observed, that the idioms of all languages approach each other in passages of the greatest eloquence and power.
And as this is the first language, so is it the last.
This immediate dependence of language upon nature, this conversion of an outward phenomenon into a type of somewhat in human life, never loses its power to affect us. A man’s power to connect his thought with its proper symbol, and so to utter it, depends on the simplicity of his character, that is, upon his love of truth, and his desire to communicate it without loss.
The corruption of man is followed by the corruption of language. When simplicity of character and the sovereignty of ideas is broken up by the prevalence of secondary desires, the desire of riches, of pleasure, of power, and of praise, — and duplicity and falsehood take place of simplicity and truth, the power over nature as an interpreter of the will, is in a degree lost; new imagery ceases to be created, and old words are perverted to stand for things which they are not. In due time, the fraud is manifest, and words lose all power to stimulate understanding or affection.
We know more from nature than we can at will communicate. Its light flows into the mind continuously, and yet, we forget its presence.
Have mountains, and waves, and skies, no significance but what we consciously give them, when we employ them as emblems of our thoughts? The world is emblematic.
Parts of speech are metaphors, because the whole of nature is a metaphor of the human mind. The laws of moral nature answer to those of matter as face to face in a glass.
“The visible world and the relation of its parts, is the dial plate of the invisible.”
The axioms of physics translate the laws of ethics. Thus, “the whole is greater than its part;” “reaction is equal to action;” “the smallest weight may be made to lift the greatest, the difference of weight being compensated by time;” and many similar propositions have an ethical as well as physical sense. These propositions have a much more extensive and universal sense when applied to human life, than when only confined to technical use.
In the same way, the memorable words of history, and the proverbs of nations, consist usually of a natural fact, selected as a picture or parable of a moral truth.
Thus; A rolling stone gathers no moss; A bird in the hand is worth two in the bush; A cripple in the right way, will beat a racer in the wrong; Make hay while the sun shines; ‘T is hard to carry a full cup even; Vinegar is the son of wine; The last ounce broke the camel’s back; Long-lived trees make roots first; — and the like.
In their primary sense these are trivial facts, but we repeat them for the value of their analogical import. What is true of proverbs, is true of all fables, parables, and allegories.
This relation between the mind and matter is not fancied by some poet, but stands in the will of God, and so is free to be known by all of us. It is the standing problem which has exercised the wonder and the study of every fine genius since the world began; from the era of the Egyptians and the Brahmins, to that of Pythagoras, of Plato, of Bacon, of Leibnitz, of Swedenborg.
A fact is the end or last issue of spirit. The visible creation is the terminus or the circumference of the invisible world. “Material objects,” said a French philosopher, “are necessarily kinds of scoriae of the substantial thoughts of the Creator, which must always preserve an exact relation to their first origin; in other words, visible nature must have a spiritual and moral side.”
Nobody in his senses wants airplanes dropping bombs and poison gases upon his head; nobody in his senses wants slums, Tobacco Roads, and undernourished, ragged schoolchildren in a land of potential economic plenty. But bombs are killing babies in China and Spain today, and more than one-third of the people in America are underfed, badly housed, shoddily clothed.
Nobody wants men and women to be unemployed, but in Western civilization from twenty to thirty million are, or have recently been, without work, and many of those who have recovered their jobs are making munitions of war. In brief, with a dreadful irony, we are acting to produce precisely the kinds of things and situations which we do not want.
It is as though a hungry farmer, with rich soil, and good wheat seed in his barn, could raise nothing but thistles. The tendency of organisms is strongly toward survival, not against it. Something has perverted human-survival behavior. I assume that it is a temporary perversion. I assume that it is bound up to some extent with an unconscious misuse of man’s most human attributes – thinking and its tool, language.
Failure of mental communication is painfully in evidence nearly everywhere we choose to look. Pick up any magazine or newspaper and you will find many of the articles devoted to sound and fury from politicians, editors, leaders of industry, and diplomats. You will find the text of the advertising sections devoted almost solidly to a skillful attempt to make words mean something different to the reader from what the facts warrant.
Most of us are aware of the chronic inability of schoolchildren to understand what is taught them; their examination papers are familiar exhibits in communication failure. Let me put a question to my fellow authors in the fields of economics, politics, and sociology: How many book-reviewers show by their reviews that they know what you are talking about? One in ten? That is about my ratio. Yet most of them assert that I am relatively lucid, if ignorant. How many arguments arrive anywhere? “A controversy,” says Richards, “is normally an exploitation of a set of misunderstandings for warlike purposes.” Have you ever listened to a debate in the Senate? A case being argued before the Supreme Court? . . .
This is not frail humanity strapped upon an eternal rack. This is a reparable defect in the mechanism. When the physicists began to clear up their language, especially after Einstein, one mighty citadel after another was taken in the quest for knowledge. Is slum clearance a more difficult study than counting electrons? Strictly speaking, this may be a meaningless question, but I think you get my point.
It is too late to eliminate the factor of sheer verbalism in the already blazing war between “fascism” and “communism.” That war may end Europe as a viable continent for decades. To say that it is a battle of words alone is contrary to the facts, for there are important differences between the so-called fascist and communist states. But the words themselves, and the dialectic which accompanies them, have kindled emotional fires which far transcend the differences in fact.
Abstract terms are personified to become burning, fighting realities. Yet if the knowledge of semantics were general, and men were on guard for communication failure, the conflagration could hardly start. There would be “honest differences of opinion, there might be a sharp political struggle, but not this windy clash of rival metaphysical notions.
If one is attacked and cornered, one fights; the reaction is shared with other animals and is a sound survival mechanism. In modern times, however, this natural action comes after the conflict has been set in motion by propaganda. Bad language is now the mightiest weapon in the arsenal of despots and demagogues.
Endless political and economic difficulties in America have arisen and thriven on bad language. The Supreme Court crisis of 1937 was due chiefly to the creation by judges and lawyers of verbal monsters in the interpretation of the Constitution. They gave objective, rigid values to vague phrases like “due process” and “interstate commerce.” Once these monsters get into the zoo, no one knows how to get them out again, and they proceed to eat us out of house and home.
Judges and lawyers furthermore have granted to a legal abstraction the rights, privileges, and protection vouchsafed to a living, breathing human being. It is thus that corporations, as well as you or I, are entitled to life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness. It would surely be a rollicking sight to see the Standard Oil Company of New Jersey in pursuit of happiness at a dance hall. It would be a sight to see United States Smelting and Refining being brought back to consciousness by a squad of coast guard men armed with a respirator, to see the Atlas Corporation enjoying its constitutional freedom at a nudist camp.
This gross animism has permitted a relatively small number of individuals to throw the economic mechanism seriously out of gear. By economic mechanism, I mean the operation of factories, stores, machines, whereby men, women, and children are fed, sheltered, and clothed. If people were armed with semantic understanding, such fabulous concepts could not arise. Corporations would not be interpreted as tender persons.
A community of semantic illiterates, of persons unable to perceive the meaning of what they read and hear, is one of perilous equilibrium. Advertisers, as well as demagogues, thrive on this illiteracy. The case against the advertising of commercial products has hitherto rested on mendacity. In modern times outright mendacity—such as a cure for cancer—is tempered with spurious identification. The advertiser often creates verbal goods, turning the reader’s attention away from the actual product. He sells the package, and especially the doctrinal matter around the package. The plain woman, by using a given cosmetic, is invited to become Cleopatra, vested with all the allure of the East. In brief, consumers often pay their money for the word rather than for the thing.
Without ability to translate words into verifiable meanings, most people are the inevitable victims of both commercial and literary fraud. Their mental life is increasingly corrupted.
We must realize that young people today are torn between the traditions of the past and the uncertainties of the future. A way of life that guided the conduct of older generations has broken down and it is very unlikely that it will be restored.
Disillusionment is a phase through which we all pass in one way or another. Children today must live in a world their parents have never known.
Today millions of young people face a future that offers no encouragement for effort and no reward for merit. Education insures no preferment, ability creates no security; the foundations of honesty and integrity have been undermined by the pressures of a perverted profit system.
The present youth crisis is more than a temporary emergency. This condition cannot solve itself. The answer must be found in an intelligent and farseeing program of industrial and social planning.
Today the nation’s most important asset, our youth, continues to remain unrepresented. Unorganized and unemployed, it is rapidly approaching dangerous crises, and stands in desperate need of wise and sympathetic direction.
America’s youth is the helpless victim of industrial feudalism. The energy, courage and vision of youth can support the progress of the world, yet it is denied a place in the sun. No provision has been made to insure a square deal to the young people of America; no hero has come forth to champion their cause before a self-centered generation.
For the most part their problems are unconsidered, their needs unanalyzed, and their future unassured. The miseries, uncertainties and disillusionments of past decades are overshadowing and oppressing the new generations.
Can America afford to ignore the psychological force and constructive energy of its young people?
In a few years the older generation, with its plots and spoils, must pass away. Instead of battling the feudal lords of industry and finance, secure in their high places, leave them to the inevitable ravages of time. If these hard-set men who think only in terms of success, and whose only emotion is love of power, cannot be reformed, we need not despair. What men cannot change, nature will remove in due time.
Why not educate the younger generation to a different standard of life and action? Let’s invest every resource of the nation, if necessary, in equipping youth to rule the world of tomorrow more wisely than age is ruling it today.
The vast sums now being expended for relief are only taking care of an imminent problem. The fundamental psychology of the country must be changed. If we can change our attitude from that of rapacious greed to one of national pride and solidarity, then the root of the problem has been touched
If we can prevent the younger generation from being corrupted by the old selfish codes which perverted our father’s time the death rate will bring a natural end to the Age of greed.
The man who is fed today is hungry tomorrow.
Is it not more extravagant for a nation to assume economic responsibility for millions of indigent persons that to finance a program, which will eventually render charity unnecessary?
One of the greatest fallacies in our viewpoint is that we try to reform adult delinquents, striving to cure people of innate selfishness when they are too old and set to change.
Let us then try to straighten the bent twig than the inclined tree.
Under our present industrial system the employment of the millions of unemployed is practically impossible. The country must be prepared to make drastic changes in its economic system or else be satisfied to support for years to come the millions of people who are permanently crowded out of industry. The better alternative is to build for the future, to look forward 10 or 20 years instead of at our noses.
As no plan has yet been attempted which solves the basic cause of unemployment, it would seem the vital issue of the hour is the discovery of some method to preserve the integrity and self-respect for our coming generations.
We must make our young people a part of the nation is a new and thrilling way, from the first day of school until they finally emerge into their own life. They must be led to realize that they are important and necessary. The psychology of helping themselves and at the same time others will give them enthusiasm and dignity.
Youth is probably the most vulnerable element in the psychology of the American people. No one can attack youth’s right to life, liberty, and happiness without exposing their own intolerance and inhumanity.
The sentiments, higher emotions and ideals of people are never drawn out and played upon and that is why they are so seldom expressed in national life.
At the present time, nearly every country of the world is in serious difficulties. We hear continuing reports of conferences and summit meeting to arbitrate the feuds and dilemmas of nations, communities and – for that matter – private lives. The old traditional ways of solving disagreements between countries are over worked and have virtually no effect.
There are forebodings of further probable disasters, and the citizens of the various political structures are on the verge of revolution. Up until now there seems to be no comprehensive approach for successfully dealing with even one of the impending catastrophes.
Why not face the facts and study the historical and psychological conditions, which are responsible for practically all of the tragedies that have befallen the world over the last, several thousand years?
I think there is constructive hope in the idea of a complete educational overhaul, no only encompassing the classroom but also including the standard reference books on the critical events that have distinguished and disfigured the planet for a long time.
The concept now seems to center on the importance of reconstruction of the public school system so that young people are better informed about the great social problems we have inherited from the past.
Democratic commonwealth can never be legislated into existence. Nor can it result from treaties or conferences. This is clearly indicated in the failure of the United Nations. They have failed to prevent war because the nations, which make up the union, lack courage of high conviction; they failed the very institution, which they themselves established.
Permanent progress results from education, and not from legislation. The true purpose of education is to inform the mind in basic truths concerning conduct and the consequences of conduct. Education is not merely fitting the individual for the problems of economic survival.
No human being who is moved to actions through wrong motivation, or misuses the privileges of his times, can be regarded as educated, regardless of the amount of formal schooling he received.
Civilization after civilization has been built up by human courage and destroyed by human ignorance. We stand again on the threshold of great decision.
The Hermetica is a collection of writing attributed to Thoth- a mythical ancient Egyptian sage whose wisdom is said to have transformed him into a god. Although largely unknown today, the writings attributed to Hermes/Thoth have been immensely important in the history of Western thought. They profoundly influenced the Greeks, and through their rediscovery in fifteenth-century florence, helped to inspire the ‘Renaissance’ which gave birth to our modern age.
The list of people who acknowledge a debt to the Hermetica reads like a ‘Who’s Who’ of the greatest philosophers, scientists and artists that the West has produced- Leonardo da Vinci, Duer, Botticelli, Roger Bacon, Paracelsus, Thomas More, William Blake, Kepler, Copernicus, Isaac Newton, Sir Walter Raleigh, Milton, Ben Johnson, Daniel Dafoe, Shelley and his wife Mary, Victor Hugo and Carl jung. It heavily influenced Shakespeare, John Donne, John Dee and all the poet-philosophers who surrounded the court of Queen Elizabeth I, as well as the founding scientists of the Royal Society in London, and even threaders who inspired the Protestant Reformation in Europe. The list is endless, with Hermetica’s influence reaching well beyond the frontiers of Europe.
The Hermetica is a cornerstone of Western culture. In substance and importance it is equal to well-known Eastern scriptures like Upanishads, the Dhammapada and the Tao Te Ching. Yet, unlike these texts which are now readily available and widely read, the works of Hermes have been lost under the dead weight of academic translations, Christian prejudice and occult obscurities.
History shows that wherever the works of Hermes have been studied and venerated, civilisation flourished. Pagans and sages fled to the newly emerging Arab culture, taking their knowledge and the Hermetic writings with them. Two hundred years later, the Muslims created an empire who learning and scientific achievements were unsurpassed.
By the beginning of the ninth century, the first university was established in Baghdad, called the ‘House of Wisdom’. Here many pagan works were translated, the sciences that had reached such heights in Alexandria were significantly developed, and the ancient Pagan spiritual wisdom was covertly studied and practised. From its exalted position amongst the sacred scriptures of Egyptian spirituality, the Hermetica became the secret inspiration for an important undercurrent in Islamic philosophy.
With the Arab empire becoming increasingly intolerant, the owners of the Hermetic books travelled in search of a safe refuge. In the fifteenth century many fled to the tolerant city state of Florence in Northern Italy, where this wisdom again inspired a great cultural flowering.
The emergence of a glorious new culture in Florence signalled the end of the Dark Ages. We call this period the ‘Renaissance’, meaning ‘rebirth’, which is a fitting name, for at the heart of the Hermetic philosophy is the idea of being spiritually reborn.
As in Alexandria a thousand years earlier, the Renaissance viewed science, art, literature and religions parts of a united whole to be studied together. All aspects of human life were now opened up as legitimate areas of investigation. It was a situation that challenged the authorities of the Roman Catholic Church in 1492, with the aid of the Kind of France, they crushed the Republic of Florence.
In the modern world we know from the actions of the tabloid press how one well-timed ‘hatchet job’ can unjustifiably undermine someone’s reputation for good. This is exactly what happened to the Hermetic teachings.
As old as the Christian gospels and older than the Qu’ran, it is one of the great sacred texts of the world. It is worthy of respect and study for these reasons alone.
Although human culture has changed beyond recognition from the times of ancient Egyptians, the essential mysteries of life have remained what they have always been and always will be. For those alive to these mysteries, the writings of Hermes are as relevant today as they were in the distant past.
There’s a crisis of mental health in our children’s schools and it’s getting worse!
7 reasons contributing to this epidemic are as follows:
1) An unsound, impractical and inadequate educational theory. It perpetuates much that is obsolete and ignores most of that which is vital in knowledge.
2) A vicious popular psychology of success. The young are constantly urged to force their way into lines of endeavour for which they are unsuited, merely for reasons of monetary gain. Progress cannot continue with money as a sole motive for effort.
3) Inadequate, prejudiced, ignorant and intolerant religious training. Narrow religious concepts so distort the ethical values that religion’s true work of character building is ignored.
4) Lack of understanding between young people and the older generation. Children receive detrimental training based on the example of unfairness set by their elders.
5) Non-representation in social and political life. Young people must grow up and live in other men’s worlds, with no right and no voice in the correction of flagrant evils of which they themselves are conscious.
6) Loss of resourcefulness. The educational theory destroys initiative, the social order discourages originality, and neither offers any security in the place of the qualities they kill out.
7) Loss of confidence in life, self and authority. This condition is greatly aggravated by unemployment and the impossibility of finding useful outlets for skill and knowledge acquired through schooling.
It has taken years to being about the present evil and it will take years to perfect a cure. The education of youth in the essential values of life and the release of their young minds from the abnormal complexes which grip this generation is the only way to prevent these social crises.
Young people are the most vulnerable element in the psychology of the American people. It will be easier to coordinate the mind of the people on this issue than on any other od the programs under consideration. No one can attack a young person’s right to life, liberty and happiness, without exposing his own intolerance and inhumanity.
U.S. Secretary of Education Betsy DeVos
U.S. Department of Education
400 Maryland Avenue, SW
Washington, D.C. 20202
Governor John Kasich
Riffe Center, 30th Floor
77 South High Street
Columbus, OH 43215-6117
Superintendent of Public Instruction Paolo DeMaria
Ohio Department of Education
25 South Front Street
Columbus, OH 43215-4183
Dear Secretary DeVos, Governor Kasich, and Superintendent DeMaria:
I write to each of you, in my position as a teacher in the Cincinnati Public Schools, to ask for your assistance. I include both federal and state politicians here, as in the past when I had the opportunity to address concerns to a member of the Federal Department of Education, I was told that these issues were under state control, but when, while working as part of a committee examining the Every Student Succeeds Act (ESSA), I addressed the same concerns to members of the State Department of Education, I was told that these issues were under federal control.
As a result, I invite all of you to engage in the conversation together in hope that rather than finger pointing, we can begin to seek solutions.
As we implement new education legislation, I ask that teachers be treated as the experts we are. That we are not just included in the conversation, but that we are leading it. The data demands it, and our children deserve it.
An Artificial Crisis
Politicians and the media have had a field day “exposing,” and attempting to address, what has been described as an educational crisis in America. I, too, believe that we are facing a crisis; however, unlike many in the school reform movement, I do not think that teachers and schools are at the root of this crisis. Rather I think it is the very reform efforts themselves – known generally as the “school accountability movement” — that has caused this concern.
I do not blame the Common Core State Standards. Many people conflate the Common Core State Standards with school accountability measures, but, to be clear, while there are some overlaps between these issues, the CCSS are not to blame in isolation for the challenges we are facing in education today. As a teacher, my personal opinion is that the jury is still out on CCSD, and will remain so until we have experienced several cohorts of students whose education has occurred entirely under CCSD. There are some who believe that this set of standards is not developmentally appropriate for students. This may be, but to be clear, the Standards themselves are merely goals to aim for. I am happy to have a high bar set for both my students and myself, as long as I am given time, support, and resources to attempt to meet that bar, and with the understanding that since students all start at different places, success lies in moving them toward the goal.
The standards are not the problem. The problem is the methodology being used to monitor them.
A Look at the Data
There is a body of information indicating that the supposed “crisis” in American Education has been misreported, and that this myth has been supported and sustained by a repeated skewing of the reported data.
The National Assessment of Educational Progress (NAEP) is a national database that has tracked student progress in reading and math since the early 1970s. It is given to students at ages 9, 13, and 17, and the tests have been carefully monitored for consistency over the course of nearly 40 years. The results of this data indicate that reading and math scores have remained fairly static from year to year, with both increasing somewhat over time. For example, the 2012 data indicated that for thirteen year olds, the average reading scores increased by 8 raw points and average math scores increased by 21 raw points, since the first data reported in 1978.
This does not look like a crisis at all. The “educational crisis” hysteria has seemed to predominantly come from information comparing United States’ educational data with that from other countries.
Whenever we compare educational outcomes, we must be careful to monitor for external factors – for example, when comparing data internationally, we must take into account that the United States educates and assesses all students until the age of 18; whereas some other countries place students in various forms of tracked models and do not include all of these groups in their testing.
Additionally, the United States has a very high child poverty rate. The 2012 UNICEF report listed The United States’ child poverty rate as 34thout of 35 “economically advanced” countries, with only Romania scoring lower.
We know that poverty impacts academic achievement, and this must be taken into account when comparing U.S. scores internationally. For example, when the oft-cited data from the Program for International Assessment (PISA) is disaggregated based on economic status, we can see a trend that clearly indicates that the problem is poverty, rather than instruction.
United States’ schools with fewer than 10% of students living in poverty score higher than any country in the world. Schools with student poverty rates that are less than 24.9% rank 3rdin the world, and schools with poverty rates ranging from 25% to 49.9% rank 10th in the world. However, schools with 50% to 74.9% poverty rates rank much lower – fifth from the bottom. Tragically, schools with 75% or higher poverty rates rank lower in reading scores than any country except Mexico.
Couple this with the 2013 data that indicates that a majority (51%) of public school students live in poverty in this country, and we see the true depth of the actual crisis of poverty, and its impact on education.
A Crisis of Poverty
Schools with the lowest rates of student achievement are typically those with the highest number of disadvantaged students and the fewest available resources. The problem runs deeper than just funding, however. Children living in poverty often have a specialized set of social-emotional and academic needs. Schools with high percentages of economically disadvantaged students cannot be treated in the same manner as more affluent schools.
Education is neither a business nor is it a factory. We do not start with identical raw materials, and act upon them in a systematic way to produce an identical product. In the same vein, we cannot judge instructional efficacy in a single manner, with a single measure, and expect to get a consistent result. Teaching is a service industry, and we work with human capital. There are myriad factors at play that influence what appropriate expectations are for any given student, but poverty is likely the most impactful of these factors.
Children living in poverty are more likely to be coping with what has been labeled “toxic stress”– caused by a high number of identified adverse childhood events. Factors such as death or incarceration of a parent, addiction, mental illness, and abuse, among other things, have been labeled as adverse childhood events. Poverty, itself, is considered to be a type of sustained adverse childhood experience, and it also is a correlate factor, since living in poverty increases the likelihood of experiencing other adverse childhood events.
We know that these types of severe and chronic stress lead to long-term changes in children’s mental and physical development, and that this directly impacts their performance in school. “On an emotional level, toxic stress can make it difficult for children to moderate their responses to disappointments and provocations. A highly sensitive stress-response system constantly on the lookout for threats can produce patterns of behavior that are self-defeating in school: fighting, talking back, acting up, and, more subtly, going through each day perpetually wary of connection with peers or teachers. On a cognitive level, chronically elevated stress can disrupt the development of what are known as executive functions …, which include working memory, attentional control, and cognitive flexibility.”
We know that children living in poverty face greater academic challenges than their middle and upper class counterparts, and yet, instead of helping this situation, the school accountability movement has chosen to vilify the wrong thing (teachers and schools), and has used standardized test scores as the weapon of choice to add insult to injury.
A Moving Target
In Ohio, there have been so many moving pieces at play that it is impossible to get a statistically valid measure. Over the course of the past three years, schools, teachers, and students have had their performance assessed using a different measurement tool each year. The 2013-2014 school year was the final year for assessment using the old Ohio State Standards and the Ohio Achievement Assessments. In the 2014-2015 school year, we switched to a combination of Partnership for Assessment of Readiness for College and Career (PARCC) and American Institute of Research (AIR) assessments based on the Common Core State Standards. Due to the legislation passed which illegalized PARCC administration in the state of Ohio, in the 2015-2016 school year, we administered AIR tests for the full battery of testing. During those same years, Ohio increased the number of grades and subjects areas tested.
In addition to these changes, the identified percentage of correct responses for proficiency on each test has changed each year, and the percentage of students scoring proficient in order to schools to be considered successful in achieving Adequate Yearly Progress (AYP) has also increased each year.
So, the standards have changed, the tests have changed, the acceptable percent of correct responses has changed, the required percentage of students achieving proficiency has changed.
Tell me again why we think this is an accurate and reliable system for measuring student achievement?
It is, therefore, not surprising that scores have remained anything but static. For the 2012-2013 school year, Cincinnati Public Schools was rated as being in “Continuous Improvement,” while the school where I teach was deemed “Excellent.” For the 2015-2016 school year, the Cincinnati Public Schools received four ratings of “F” and 2 ratings of “D,” while the school where I teach received 3 “F” ratings and 2 D ratings. (As a high school program, we are not rated in the area of K-3 Literacy.)
There are only two ways to interpret this. Either, over the course of three years, the quality of instruction has declined precipitously (across a district of nearly 3,000 teachers), or the data is invalid. The former assumption is nonsensical; the latter is terrifying based on the weight this data carries when making educational decisions.
Teacher performance evaluations are linked to test scores, School and district report cards are based almost exclusively on test scores, and, student graduation is based on test scores. But if the tools keep changing and the target keeps moving, how is it even remotely possible to measure improvement?
This concern is compounded by the subjectivity of the scores determined for proficiency – the cut scores are neither norm-referenced nor consistent from year to year.
For the 2015-2016 testing, in reading and math, across all grade levels, the percentage of students projectedto score proficient or above ranged from 52-66%. This means that even on tests where students were “most likely to pass,” it was anticipated that only 66% of students would do so, and for other tests this was as low as 52%. For many tests, the reality was significantly worse. Only 21% of students taking Integrated Mathematics (Math 2) across the state were deemed proficient or above, and only 24% of students taking the Geometry test scored proficient or above. This is an awfully broad-scale problem to make the assumption that the issue of concern lies with students and teachers, rather than with the testing itself and with the structure of the system of accountability.
And once again, we see that poverty plays a role in these outcomes. For the 2015-2016 school year, 94% of urban schools in Ohio received ratings of D or F. Because of school accountability, and the high-stakes nature of the tests, scores like these cause the testing pressure to ratchet up. Low scores necessarily result in greater time and resources being spent solely to improve these scores. Some call this “test preparation;” others call it “teaching to the test.” Testing and school accountability result in too much time spent on testing, and on teaching curriculum that loses much of the flexible, creative, engaging, and in-depth instruction that keeps students engaged in learning and educators engaged in teaching. As one former urban school principal, concerned about the state report card, said during a faculty meeting when a teacher dared question how testing was detracting from her carefully crafted curriculum, “The test IS the curriculum! What are you, STUPID?!?!”
An Unavoidable Outcome
In 2013, the American Federation of Teachers reported that in heavily tested grades, up to fifty hours a year was spent on testing and up to 110 hours a year devoted to test preparation. Schools with high percentages of disadvantaged students bear the greatest weight for this, as they tend to have the greatest required gains in testing outcomes. The Center for American Progress notes that students in urban high schools spend up to 266% more time taking standardized tests than students in suburban schools.
And this is the fundamental problem with school accountability measures. They have caused the American public school system to become overly focused on a single measurement of success, and that measure is most punitive to populations that are already struggling.
Standardized test data is one measure of academic achievement, and as such it is valuable, but it is nothing more than a single data point. However, this data point has become so important that it is driving every other aspect of the educational train.
I want that data point – I want it for each of my students individually, and I want it for my class collectively – because it tells me something. But it doesn’t tell me everything, and we are treating it as if it does. How can the snapshot of a test score – given on a certain day, in a certain amount of time, with a specific type of questioning – tell me more than what I know as a result of working with my students hour after hour, day after day, for 40 weeks? It can’t, of course.
A Teacher’s Plea
Teachers are professionals, and we should be treated as such.
We are required to hold, at minimum, a Bachelor’s degree in teaching one or more subject areas; we also must complete significant amounts of additional training every year, and, at least in Ohio, to submit this to the state for re-licensure every five years. Most importantly, teachers are highly practiced in assessment and interpretation of results through our daily work with students and our careful observation of, and reflection on, student learning .
Education is complicated. Student growth is broad and deep, and sometimes happens in fits and starts and other times grows slowly and consistently. This complex process could never be adequately measured by a series of tests.
I know my students. I know when I am moving too quickly or too slowly, and I know when they are succeeding and when they are struggling. To assume that the state can determine this, and can make judgments on the effectiveness of my instruction based solely on a single measure is folly – especially when we know that students in poverty, the teachers who educate them, and the schools that serve them, will be judged most harshly by these measures. In fact, standardized test scores may tell us very little about a teachers’ impact or a students’ future success.
As Paul Tough writes, “A few years ago, a young economist at Northwestern University named C. Kirabo Jackson began investigating how to measure educators’ effectiveness. In many school systems these days, teachers are assessed based primarily on one data point: the standardized-test scores of their students. Jackson suspected that the true impact teachers had on their students was more complicated than a single test score could reveal… He created a proxy measure for students’ noncognitive ability. Jackson’s new index measured how engaged students were in school – Whether they showed up, whether they misbehaved, and how hard they worked in their classes. Jackson found that this was, remarkably, a better predictor than student’s test scores of whether the students would go on to attend college, a better predictor of adult wages, and a better predictor of future arrests.”
School Accountability measures with their fundamental focus on testing reduces teachers’ ability to focus on nurturing students’ “noncognitive ability,” and this is damaging to students and teachers alike — perhaps irrevocably damaging.
The Every Student Succeeds Act (ESSA) is moving us in the right direction by removing the requirement that teacher evaluations be linked to standardized test outcomes, but it doesn’t go far enough, and it leaves the window open for states to continue this practice.
As a nation, we must move away from our obsession with testing outcomes. The only group that is profiting from this is the testing industry. And with 1.7 billion dollars being spent by states annually on testing, they are, quite literally, profiting, and at the tax payers’ expense.
The most critical solution to this is to untie student, teacher, and school accountability measures from testing outcomes, or to combine these scores with a variety of other measures of success. In addition, we need to dramatically reduce the time spent on testing by requiring tests in fewer grades, or not administering tests every year. No high-performing nation in the world tests all students annually.
An Expert Opinion
We are not in an education crisis. We are in a crisis of poverty that is being exacerbated by the school accountability movement and the testing industry. At best, this movement has been misguided. At worst, it is an intentional set up to bring about the demise of the public education system – mandatory testing designed to produce poor results which leads to greater investment made in test preparation programs provided by the same companies who produce the tests, coupled with a related push for privatization of the educational system. All touted as a means to save us from this false crisis.
Politics, not education, got us into this mess, and it is politics that must get us out of it.
We must not go further down this rabbit hole. The future of our educational system, and the future of our children, is at stake. No one who has not worked in the sector of public education should be making decisions about our school system without careful consideration of the insights of those who will be directly impacted by those decisions.
As we move forward with a new federal administration, and as the state of Ohio makes decisions relative to implementation of ESSA, I beg you to not just include teachers and parents in the discussion, but to ensure that we are the loudest voices in the conversation.
I hope that you will consider the issues raised here, and most importantly, that you will listen to the voices of the teachers and parents who are trying so desperately to be heard.
Thank you for your time. I am happy to engage in the conversation further; feel free to contact me at firstname.lastname@example.org
Kristina L. Taylor
Intervention Specialist; Team Leader
James N. Gamble Montessori High School
2015 Educator of the Year
 “LTT – Select Criteria.” LTT – Select Criteria. National Center for Education Statistics, n.d. Web. 22 Dec. 2016.
 Adamson, Peter. Measuring Child Poverty: New League Tables of Child Poverty in the World’s Rich Countries. Florence, Italy: UNICEF Innocenti Research Centre, 2012. Web.
 Tough, Paul. “How Kids Learn Resilience.” The Atlantic. Atlantic Media Company, June 2016. Web. 22 Dec. 2016.
 “Adverse Childhood Experiences (ACE) Study: Leading Determinants of Health.” PsycEXTRA Dataset (2014): 1-5. American Academy of Pediactrics. American Academy of Pediatrics. Web. 20 Dec. 2016.
 Tough, Paul. “How Kids Learn Resilience.” The Atlantic. Atlantic Media Company, June 2016. Web. 22 Dec. 2016. p. 3.
 Dealer, Patrick O’Donnell The Plain. “Scores on Ohio’s High School Math Tests Much Lower than Expected, Sparking Debate over Graduation Requirements.” Cleveland.com. The Cleveland Plain Dealer, 03 June 2016. Web. 22 Dec. 2016.
 Mulholland, Quinn. “The Case Against Standardized Testing.” Harvard Political Review. Harvard Political Review, 05 Nov. 2015. Web. 22 Dec. 2016.
 Tough, Paul. “How Kids Learn Resilience.” The Atlantic. Atlantic Media Company, June 2016. Web. 22 Dec. 2016. p. 9.
 Mulholland, Quinn. “The Case Against Standardized Testing.” Harvard Political Review. Harvard Political Review, 05 Nov. 2015. Web. 22 Dec. 2016.
 @dianeravitch. “No High-Performing Nation in the World Tests Every Student Every Year.”Diane Ravitch’s Blog. N.p., 22 Nov. 2016. Web. 22 Dec. 2016.
One the most important factors for the continued existence of any country is its defense capability. As a nation, it must be in a constant state of preparedness to face all kinds of threats and danger from external and internal sources.
No matter how well developed and advanced a country may be, if it fails to defend itself, it could be brought to ruin with the launching of even a minor military offensive against it, or even a well-directed and unanticipated terrorist act. In the face of such threats, neither its natural resources, its technological prowess, not its economy will be of any avail. If the country in question is unable to defend itself, it may even cease to exist
This is one of the reasons why significant amounts of the national income is regularly allocated to defense; nowadays, armed forces have to be provided with the most advanced weaponry, tools and equipment fitted with the latest technological features, and meticulous training has to be given to soldiers in an all-out attempt to keep defense systems fully functional.
No less than countries, people too have to be concerned about their defense, if they want to lead a healthy and peaceful life. They inevitably have to protect themselves and their possession against criminal acts, such as theft and murder, as well as against natural disasters, such as accidents, fire, earthquakes and floods. But this is not the end of the matter.
Human beings have other enemies, which go unseen by them and, as such, are often ignored. Actually, these enemies are much more resilient than the others. Serious measures must, therefore, be taken to guard against them.
Who, or what then are these enemies that keep human beings under constant threat?
They are bacteria, viruses, and similar microscopic organisms, which may exist in the water we drink, the food we eat, the house we live in, and the office where we work. In essence, they are everywhere.
Most interestingly, in spite of being surrounded by such a serious threat, we make no effort whatsoever to protect ourselves against it. This is because there is a mechanism within our bodies, which undertakes this task on our behalf, providing the necessary protection for us, without causing us the slightest disturbance. This is “The Defense System”.
The defense cells that protect the human body against invaders, such as bacteria, viruses, and similar micro-organisms, are equipped with extraordinary abilities. The patterns of intelligence, effort, and sacrifice, which these cells display during the war they wage in the body, astonish everyone who learns about them.
According to statements of scientists, the defense system possesses an “irreducible complexity”. This term refers to an intact system composed of several well-matched, interacting parts that contribute to the basic function, wherein the removal of any one of the parts causes the system to effectively cease functioning. As an example, let us think of the devices we would need if we were to send a fax:
– A facsimile device
– A telephone line
– A cable
If any one of these items is absent you cannot send a fax. Nothing from the above list must be missing. Besides, they must conform to exact specifications. For example, the length of the cable must be sufficient for the plug to reach the socket, otherwise the available items will be of no use. Similarly, although all elements of the defense system fulfill their functions perfectly, if there are a few components which malfunction, this would cause the body to lose the war.
For example, if the tiny granules located within the T cells do not function properly, they cannot store toxins, which in turn cannot be transferred to the enemy, again resulting in the war being lost. Therefore, in a system where the enemy cannot finally be killed, important functions such as the formation of warrior cells, their training, the transmission of the necessary signals to appropriate locations by the cells at the right time, and the thousands of combinations needed by our genes to produce antibodies, or the storing of limitless information in the memory cells, would all be worthless.
The system would simply not work. Similarly, the existence of the many and varied functions of the human body, which has an irreducible complexity, is equally useless in the absence of a defense system. If the defense system did not exist or failed to operate properly, no human being would be able to survive.
Most researchers are well aware that evolutionist statements are nothing more than consolation and window-dressing. Klaus Dose, a well-known researcher in the field of molecular biology states:
More than 30 years of experimentation on the origin of life in the fields of chemical and molecular evolution have led to a better perception of the immensity of the problem of the origin of life on Earth rather than to its solution. At present all discussions on principal theories and experiments in the field either end in stalemate or in a confession of ignorance.
Even Darwin, the founder of the theory of evolution, experienced the same lack of confidence some 150 years ago:
When I think of the many cases of men who have studied one subject for years, and have persuaded themselves of the truth of the foolishest doctrines, I feel sometimes a little frightened, whether I may not be one of these monomaniacs.
Let’s pause and ask ourselves what would happen if we were asked to control only our defense system and nothing else, we would have to be involved in such a complicated and difficult process. Even a simple common cold would require us to go to the doctor’s many times over, follow up the recovery course of the cells with extremely advanced medical equipment, and use them as necessary. Even the slightest delay or a problem in the course of the process would cause the illness to be further aggravated.
Let’s take it further; what if you were asked to form these cells, make them recognize the enemy and manufacture the appropriate antibodies, then teach and organize all the processes they would perform … Unquestionably, such a life would be far more troublesome and distressful than the aforementioned model. Actually, it would literally be impossible.
The cell of a living being is more complex than all of the technological products produced by us today. Even in the most developed laboratories of the world, a living cell cannot be produced by bringing inorganic materials together.
The conditions required for the formation of a cell are too great in quantity to be explained away by coincidences. The probability of proteins, the building blocks of cell, being synthesized coincidentally, is 1 in 10950 for an average protein made up of 500 amino acids. In mathematics, a probability smaller than 1 over 1050 is practically considered to be impossible.
The DNA molecule, which is located in the nucleus of the cell and which stores genetic information, is an incredible databank. It is calculated that if the information coded in DNA were written down, this would make a giant library consisting of 900 volumes of encyclopedias of 500 pages each.
An unlimited number of combinations can be made with the use of one hundred thousand genes. The cell, however, uses, with great intelligence, only 5,200 basic combinations and produces 1,920,000 specific antibodies. How has the cell learned to make the right combinations out of these unlimited possibilities to form the required antibodies?
Making the correct combinations out of an infinite number of possibilities aside, how did the cell get this idea to make combinations?
Moreover, the produced combinations serve a certain purpose, and aim to produce an antibody that would eliminate the antigen that enters the body. Therefore, the cell also knows the properties of the millions of antigens entering the body.
No intellect in this world can produce a design of such unparalleled perfection. But cells only the size of a hundredth of a millimeter can do so.
So, how has the cell learned such a special system?
The truth is that no cell has the opportunity to “learn” a biological function in the real sense. This is because the cell does not possess the ability to perform such an act at birth, nor has it the chance to develop the required skill during the rest of its lifetime. In such cases, it is a prerequisite that the system in the cell should be ready and complete at the beginning of life. The cell neither possesses the skill to learn such combinations, nor does it have the time to learn them, as this would cause it to fail in stopping the antigens entering the body and the body would lose the war.
The fact that a system that baffles mankind, even at the point of comprehending it, has been placed in a cell which has no ability to think and reason, has a very special meaning.
People in general would like to know what makes them ill, how illnesses take complete control of their bodies, what causes fever, fatigue, pain in their bones and joints, and which processes take place in their bodies throughout their illnesses.
Before delving into the astounding details of the war of defense fought in the innermost recesses of our bodies, we must first have a general look at the defense system and its elements.
Briefly, the defense system may be defined as “an extremely disciplined, hard-working and organized army that protects the body from the clutches of external enemies.” In this multi-faceted war, the main duty of the elements fighting in the front line is to prevent the enemy cells, such as bacteria or viruses, from entering the body.
Although it is not easy for the enemy organisms to enter the body, they exert themselves to the utmost to reach their ultimate goal of invading the body. When they successfully do so, after overcoming various obstacles such as the skin, and the respiratory and digestive tracts, they will find tough warriors waiting for them. These tough warriors are produced and trained in specialized centers such as the bone marrow, spleen, thymus, and lymph nodes.
These warriors are “the defense cells” referred to as the macrophages and lymphocytes.
The phagocytes, known as the scavenger cells of the defense system, take the first action. They fight hand-to-hand with the enemy. They are just like infantrymen who fight with bayonets against enemy units.
Sometimes, phagocytes cannot catch up with the increasing numbers of the enemy, at which point big phagocytic cells, macrophages cut in. We can liken the macrophage to cavalrymen cleaving their way through the middle of the foe. At the same time, macrophages secrete a fluid, which sets off a general alarm in the body to increase the body temperature.
People do not immediately realize that microbes or viruses are invading their bodies. Only when the symptoms of their illness surface do humans become aware of them. This is proof that a virus, a bacterium, or a similar micro-organism has long ago settled within their body. This means that the primary intervention has resulted in failure. Such unchecked conditions could cause the disease to progress considerably, resulting in irremediable dispositions. Even if the person has been infected with a curable and relatively simple disease, delayed response may result in a serious crisis, or even death.
We may not be aware of it, but all the elements of the immune system protect our bodies just like the soldiers of a huge army.
In this situation, the individual resembles a “besieged castle”. Needless to say, such a castle, which is surrounded by countless enemies, must be protected in a very complete and organized manner. Human beings are created along with this perfect protection they need, and are not, therefore, entirely defenseless against these enemies. The “micro” guards in our bodies never leave us alone and fight for us on many fronts.
The invader cells that want to take control of the body first have to fight their way through the front line of the body. Even though these fronts have their weaknesses at times, the enemy is hardly ever allowed to pass through them. The first front the enemy must penetrate is our skin.
The skin, which covers the entire body of our body just like a sheath, is full of amazing features. Its ability to repair and renew itself, its non-permeability by water, despite the existence of tiny pores on its surface as opposed to its function of discharging water through perspiration, its extremely flexible structure, allowing free movement, as opposed to its being thick enough to avoid easy rupture, its ability to protect the body from the heat, the cold, and harmful sunrays are only a few of the features of the skin that have been specially created for human beings.
The technology of the 20th century has proved insufficient even at the level of understanding the methods of this perfect production.
The brave battle fought by of our defense system is comprised of three important stages:
Identification of the enemy, first action.
The attack of the real army, all-out war.
Retreat to a normal state.
The defense system has to clearly identify the enemy before it starts the fight. This is because each engagement differs from the other depending on the type of enemy. Moreover, if this piece of intelligence is not properly handed on, our defense system may inadvertently attack the body’s own cells.
If you were to design an antibody molecule, how would you do it?
Human beings, however, have been unable to design an antibody, despite all the technology at their disposal. The antibodies produced in the laboratory environment are either derived from antibody samples taken from the human body, or the bodies of other living beings.
When people become curious about the creation of the universe and its contents, it will be sufficient for them to assess the self-evident truths objectively and with a free mind.
Once materialism is invalidated, all other theories based on this philosophy are rendered baseless. American astrophysicist Hugh Ross explains this as follows:
Atheism, Darwinism, and virtually all the “isms” emanating from the eighteenth to the twentieth century philosophies are built upon the assumption, the incorrect assumption, that the universe is infinite. The singularity has brought us face to face with the cause – or causer – beyond/behind/before the universe and all that it contains, including life itself.
The primary reason why the theory of evolution ended up in such a big impasse about the origin of life is that even the living organisms deemed the simplest have incredibly complex structures. The cell of a living being is more complex than all of the technological products produced by man. Today, even in the most developed laboratories of the world, a living cell cannot be produced by bringing inorganic materials together.
A very interesting dilemma emerges at this point: the DNA can only replicate with the help of some specialized proteins (enzymes). However, the synthesis of these enzymes can only be realized by the information coded in DNA.
Natural selection holds that those living things that are stronger and more suited to the natural conditions of their habitats will survive in the struggle for life. For example, in a deer herd under the threat of attack by wild animals, those that can run faster will survive. Therefore, the deer herd will be comprised of faster and stronger individuals. However, unquestionably, this mechanism will not cause deer to evolve and transform themselves into another living species, for instance, horses.
Therefore, the mechanism of natural selection has no evolutionary power. Darwin was also aware of this fact and had to state this in his book “The Origin of Species:”
So, how could these “favourable variations” occur? Darwin tried to answer this question from the standpoint of the primitive understanding of science in his age. According to the French biologist Lamarck, who lived before Darwin, living creatures passed on the traits they acquired during their lifetime to the next generation and these traits, accumulating from one generation to another, caused new species to be formed. For instance, according to Lamarck, giraffes evolved from antelopes; as they struggled to eat he leaves of high trees, their necks were extended from generation to generation.
Darwin also gave similar examples, and in his book “The Origin of Species,” for instance, said that some bears going into water to find food transformed themselves into whales over time.
However, the laws of inheritance discovered by Mendel and verified by the science of genetics that flourished in the 20th century, utterly demolished the legend that acquired traits were passed on to subsequent generations. Thus, natural selection fell out of favor as an evolutionary mechanism.
In order to find a solution, Darwinists advanced the “Modern Synthetic Theory”, or as it is more commonly known, Neo-Darwinism, at the end of the 1930’s. Neo-Darwinism added mutations, which are distortions formed in the genes of living beings because of external factors such as radiation or replication errors, as the “cause of favorable variations” in addition to natural mutation.
Today, the model that stands for evolution in the world is Neo-Darwinism. The theory maintains that millions of living beings present on the earth formed as a result of a process whereby numerous complex organs of these organisms such as the ears, eyes, lungs, and wings, underwent “mutations,” that is, genetic disorders. Yet, there is an outright scientific fact that totally undermines this theory: Mutations do not cause living beings to develop; on the contrary, they always cause harm to them.
The reason for this is very simple: the DNA has a very complex structure and random effects can only cause harm to it. American geneticist B.G. Ranganathan explains this as follows:
Mutations are small, random, and harmful. They rarely occur and the best possibility is that they will be ineffectual. These four characteristics of mutations imply that mutations cannot lead to an evolutionary development. A random change in a highly specialized organism is either ineffectual or harmful. A random change in a watch cannot improve the watch. It will most probably harm it or at best be ineffectual. An earthquake does not improve the city, it brings destruction.
Not surprisingly, no mutation example, which is useful, that is, which is observed to develop the genetic code, has been observed so far. All mutations have proved to be harmful. It was understood that mutation, which is presented as an “evolutionary mechanism,” is actually a genetic occurrence that harms living beings, and leaves them disabled. (The most common effect of mutation on human beings is cancer). No doubt, a destructive mechanism cannot be an “evolutionary mechanism.” Natural selection, on the other hand, “can do nothing by itself” as nature. Since no evolutionary mechanism exists, neither could any imaginary process called evolution have taken place.
We would like to remind you that even now, you are totally indebted to your defense system if you are able to read this book peacefully, without being infected by the microbes all around you. Had the immune system not existed in your body, you would never have been able to read this book, having left this world even before you learned how to read and write.