History Nerd Post: Competing Slavery Narratives

This week has been awash with historical nonsense -and some corrections- which has broken through my writer’s block enough to rouse in me the motivation to open a discussion. The incompetence and corruption of American education alarms me for a host of reasons, but today we will discuss one in particular.

This week a new movie opened in theaters which purports to be “based on true events”. Note that they did not say that it was “inspired by true events”, which would have been bad enough. The producers claim the film is “based on” true events. What true events might those be? I’m glad you asked. First, here is the film’s trailer:

The Woman King is loosely, very loosely, based on the story of a group of female warriors, the Agojie, who fought for the Dahomey kingdom. The film portrays their leader, Nanisca, as a fierce but wise warrior who very desperately wanted the Dahomey kingdom to get out of the slave trading business and invest resources into a market for palm oil instead. These abolitionist-leaning women are portrayed as heroes who fight against the Europeans who want the Dahomey kingdom to continue providing slaves for them. To their credit, the website History vs. Hollywood breaks down the reality for us.

…in real life, the Dahomey are much more the villains than the heroes. The Kingdom of Dahomey was a bloodthirsty society bent on conquest. It was customary for the Dahomey to return home with the rotting heads and genitals of those they killed in battle. They conquered neighboring African states and took their citizens as slaves, selling many in the Atlantic slave trade in exchange for items like rifles, tobacco, and alcohol. Many of the slaves they sold ended up in America. They also kept some slaves for themselves to work on royal plantations. The business of slavery is what brought Dahomey most of its wealth. For them, it very much came down to either enslave others or become enslaved yourself.

Reality also undercuts the cinematic portrayal of this popular narrative; the sage, fierce black woman serving as the conscience for the kingdom ruled by the young and less wise male king:

The Agojie (women warriors) fought in slave raids along with the male fighters. There are accounts of Dahomey warriors conducting slave raids on villages where they cut the heads off of the elderly and rip the bottom jaw bones off others. During the raids, they’d burn the villages to the ground. Those who they let live, including the children, were taken captive and sold as slaves. The movie strategically downplays this part of Dahomey’s history, so as to not complicate the story with the truth.

Needless to say, there will be large swaths of the American public, and especially the African American contingent, who will see this film as an accurate portrayal of what actually happened. Our educational system, despite its frequent protestations of wanting to teach all of America’s history, somehow manages to churn out millions of graduates each year who sincerely believe that African slavery began with Europeans running into the African bush to kidnap Africans onto ships and sell them into slavery. I admit that this was my impression for most of my teen-aged life, having only been exposed to what I was taught in school, and the miniseries Roots, which portrayed African people being chased around by white men with guns before being rounded onto ships.

The release of this movie has opened a conversation in which all people, including black Americans, are confronting the reality of what the Atlantic slave trade was and how it started. This is a good thing. People who are opposed to the conversation are concerned that focusing on African participation serves to undercut the the full story of the unique racial flavor of American slavery and the 100 year legacy of discrimination and oppression that followed. That’s not my intention here, as I recognize that we Americans have a particular habit of doing things in the most extreme and often the ugliest ways possible. Contrast the European abolition movement with the way slavery was abolished in the U.S. as exhibit A. It’s a contrast of 600,000 dead Americans. I’ve learned to chalk it up to the fact that we were born of a literal insurrection. It’s in our DNA.

Nevertheless, there are other perspectives, valid ones, from which to discuss the history of the Trans-Atlantic slave trade. Our Marvel induced addiction to black hats and white hats with no shades of gray make it difficult to appreciate or acknowledge the sinful, selfish, and greedy nature that is bound up in the hearts of all men, every where, in every time, and in every place. Slavery, like many other sinful practices, was complicated.

A British expert on the royal family took a moment this week to enlighten an American reporter of this very thing. When Don Lemon chose the worst possible moment to lecture and confront this grieving Brit about the excesses of the royal family (and what about reparations?), she offered him a brief history lesson:

These are the types of things we need to consider carefully when discussing these issues. Entitlement, grievance peddling, and the wails for justice based on wrongs of the past will never go away. The Bolshevik revolution, China’s communist revolution, and many other historical events point to the reality of this human trait.

However, a decent history education might go a long way towards turning down the volume of ignorant screeching and incoherent arguments which only serve to create dissension between people who would be better served by collectively turning our attention towards the true threats to our freedom and prosperity.

Get your kids out of the cesspool of government education.

Publishing Twaddle for Profit

If you pay even a modicum of attention to books, publishing and things surrounding the same, you know that the entire industry seems to be circling the drain. There are interesting and engaging books being written. The problem broadly speaking, is that the accessibility of authors, no matter how good they are, goes through the behemoth Amazon. That presents an entirely new set of issues for writers whose narrative contradicts the current cause du jour.

However, as bad as things have gotten, cash is still king, and even Amazon will sell books written by the benighted if the promise of a big return on the investment justifies searing their progressive consciences. This emphasis on making money at the expense of quality, enduring literature is the focus of this post. I could rant on for pages about the progressive takeover of publishing, but that will have to wait for another post. This is about how the most gosh awful book franchises continue to profit regardless of how nonsensical the content is.

Last night over dinner, the subject of Chicken Soup for the Soul came up. Our younger kids had never heard of the books, so our older daughters filled them in on how prolific the books were among the girls at their public school and how many of the books filled a particular shelf in the school library. Before I go any further, I want to acknowledge fully and without reservation that generally speaking, Chicken Soup for the Soul is a book series that espouses good values and syrupy sweet sentiments in an increasingly coarse world. There are far worse books to be reading.

Still, it’s kind of preposterous how many of these book there are and their success are indicative of how far American literacy has devolved. I’m going to offer a few titles of the Chicken Soup for the Soul books available for purchase.

This is not an exhaustive list. It’s not even close to an exhaustive list. Here goes:

The above sample doesn’t even account for 10% of the titles available by the producers of Chicken Soup for the Soul. Clearly there is a market for these books, and as a supporter of a capitalist activity, I would never suggest that they shouldn’t be sold. But 250 books which purport to provide “chicken soup for the soul” based on niche and insignificant individual characterizations and preferences?

That’s twaddle of the highest order. Or lowest order. Or whatever.

The Trajectory of Modern Education

For those of us who live in the southeastern United States, the 2022-2023 school year began two weeks ago. This time of year is a busy one for us, as we are probably the poster family for the growing evolution in the way families are choosing to educate their children.

As a legal designation, we are homeschoolers. We have homeschooled our youngest children since they began kindergarten. As they have grown older -they’re teenagers now- their education has been increasingly outsourced. This has not been cheaply managed, but the fact they are not in a traditional 5-day-a-week school, leaves officially in the category of homeschoolers despite being away from home two and a half days per week.

Each summer, I wrangle up all of the binders of work our kids have done, try to collect a cross sectional representation of work from all of their subjects throughout the entire school year. I then plan and meet with a state certified teacher so that she can verify that our children have indeed been educated commensurate with their grade level, and are showing sufficient yearly progress. I always enjoy the time with our teacher of choice, and the fact that she can be excited about what we’re doing even though her own kids are in government schools increases my affection for her.

After our hour long meeting, she fills out the necessary paperwork, I send it in to the educational powers that be, and then begin planning for the upcoming school year. I always enjoy our time with this teacher, but it is an ordeal nevertheless, and I am hoping that our older daughter’s participation in the PSAT this year serves as a sufficient replacement for the big yearly to-do. It may not, but I’m hoping it does.

All of this got me thinking about the tectonic shift that has taken place in American k-12 education over the past ten years, but certainly since the year of our pandemic, 2020. We have run across more than a couple of families who, upon contemplating a return to the public system when schools reopened, chose to sit it out. They discovered they can do the thing themselves, and also that there is more than adequate support from some very learned people creating networks of hybrid schools and co-ops to help them with subjects which are a challenge. For example, the teacher we have outsourced chemistry instruction to is a guy with a science degree. He’s just not a state certified teacher.

The Discovery Institute recently ran an article titled, The Deterioration of K-12 Education in America. In it, they connect the increasingly dysfunctional public education model to the unbridled power that teacher’s unions hold in our largest states. The author writes:

The K-12 public education system started the 2021-2022 school year with one and half million fewer students than the previous year, and many more have withdrawn mid-year. Even with the resulting reduced demand for teachers, the supply has not kept pace. Data from Emsi Burning Glass, revealing that job postings for teachers have grown by 79 percent over the past year, illustrates the magnitude of the teacher shortage.

The challenges are not new. Rather, the past two years have accelerated what has long been a structural challenge within the K-12 education system for years — its inability to attract sufficient numbers of quality teachers.

They also rail -rightly- against the barriers to entry that keep qualified, quality teachers out the classroom. The main culprit they note is the sacrosanct teaching certificate:

For starters, the current system holds teacher certification as a sacred cow and fails to recognize subject matter expertise gained through advanced degrees, professional experience, or a combination of the two. Instead, a teaching certificate from any of the hundreds of programs around the country serves as the gatekeeper. Little concern is given to the vastly differing quality or admissions requirements of the teacher preparation programs.

Nor is it considered that the instructors in the certification programs (typically university professors) are themselves often not certified.

These again, are salient points, but they miss the heart of the issue when it comes to K-12 education in the United States. Quite frankly, it is crap. The children are secondary to 100 political agendas, social engineering schemes, and teacher narcissism. The kids are being taught everything but what they need to be taught to emerge as well rounded, more fully human, educated adults. And yet no one holds the schools accountable.

Meanwhile, parents like me have to run a gauntlet to prove that my kids are sufficiently educated. Never mind that I have a far greater interest in their success than the revolving doors of subpar principals and teachers killing time on their way to an often undeserved promotion.

Our children, who are reading Austen, Kipling and Augustine? Who are studying Socrates, Plato, and Marcus Aurelius? Who are examining and acting out elaborate productions of Shakespeare as well as studying the music of Vivaldi and the art of Constable? Who are studying Euclid as well as conventional math and science curriculum? Our children’s education is held up as suspect because their teachers didn’t receive a less than rigorous school of education degree and trudge off to the nearest local rpison masquerading as a place of learning.

Thankfully, more and more parents are being shaken awake, taking control of their kids education, and giving them the tools they need to succeed. This is a very good thing.

I realize that there are good teachers scattered around the public system. I appreciate their earnestness, but they are fighting against a rushing current that most children are not strong enough to swim against. Parents have no choice but to throw their kids a life raft, and that is exactly what they are doing.

Tuesday Tickles

I almost titled this post Monday Funnies, because it feels like a Monday to me since today was my first day back in classroom for the “fall” semester. Ergo, it feels like a Monday. However, just as I began typing I realized it is Tuesday and course corrected.

Given the news of the day (on all fronts), I needed a laugh and there are two guys whose work nearly always gives me a chuckle. First up is Trey Kennedy and his video “Middle Class Flex”. Although we resemble many of these remarks, it was both too true and too funny to bother me. I may have mentioned here before that my offense/outrage meter is broken anyway. But yes, we are those people with the two fridges and the two-car garage with too much stuff on one side. I will, however, say this. We do not eat at chain restaurants if we can help it. You won’t find me in a chili’s on a Friday night. Or an Applebee’s or a Red Lobster. So take THAT, Trey Kennedy!

Next up is John Crist with his video, “Politically (Auto) Correct App”. Some of these are pretty funny.

Enjoy the rest of your afternoon!

History Nerd/ Friday Fave Post: Dr. John Gorrie

As we slog through the dog days of summer, I was reminded of the story of Dr. John Gorrie. Gorrie is credited with inventing mechanical refrigeration, thus paving the way for the air conditioning which makes living in the sauna that is Florida much more comfortable for us than it was for our ancestors.

One of the reasons I was inspired to highlight the late, great good doctor is because his innovation took place right here in the Sunshine State. While there are plenty of states in the greater southeast and western regions of the United States whose heat rivals the heat of Florida, very few are as warm as we are year round. Ergo, it seems fitting that the ingenuity that led to air conditioning was discovered right here.

Gorrie was a medical doctor who lived in Apalachicola. While treating patients during a yellow fever outbreak, he theorized that the patients would fare better if he could somehow cool their rooms. His experimenting with this theory began as he hung ice blocks from the ceiling in a basin. The cooler, heavier air would flow down from the ceiling, over the patient, and through an opening in the floor.

The next thing Gorrie needed to do (because he could only access ice as it was brought down from the Great Lakes region of the U.S.), was find a way to create artificial ice. Eventually he left the practice of medicine to pursue his work on refrigeration full time. By 1851, he had patented his ice machine, and traveled to sell it, but didn’t make much of a profit.

picture credit

Gorrie died before seeing the fruits of his ingenuity and labor come to pass, but he is regarded as the father of air conditioning and as the man who did that as a way to help his patients suffering disease in the midst of Florida’s oppressive summer heat.

Thanks for the AC, Dr. Gorrie. I really can’t express to you how much we appreciate it.

Does It Matter Where the Author is Coming From?

I read this article from Joshua Gibbs the other day and it’s staying with me. I can’t really shake it, and I’m not sure why. I was in full agreement, because I feel the exact same way. I don’t appreciate the 50+ page introductions that seem to be inserted at the beginning of every classic book, novels in particular. Almost all of them come with a lengthy description of the author’s background and upbringing. In addition, there are more than a few notes about the book which are, I presume, supposed to help the reader understand some things as they read. Gibbs explains:

Most classic books are now published with an introduction that contains a good deal of biographical data about the author: where he was born, when, what his family was like, current politics, major events of his lifetime (war, famine), as well as his most important crimes and moral failures. Additionally, introductions can be relied on for summary essays on the book’s greatest themes and a catalogue of major theories about what it all means.

Older editions of classic books tend to not have introductions. The further back you go in history, the less likely you are to find a fat fifty-page intro in front of the first line. Most editions of The Divine Comedy or Paradise Lost that were published a hundred years ago or more don’t have introductions. Four pages from the front cover, you’re reading classic literature. It seems something happened between one and two hundred years ago which made introductions a common feature of classics—but not really necessary for new works. It seems we came to view classics as strange, incomprehensible, and dangerous.

Modern people uncritically assume introductions are necessary in order to understand classic books. This is such a deep assumption that most literature teachers begin every new work of literature with a lecture or two about the author—when and where he was born, what his parents did, whether he was rich or poor, where he went to church, who he married. If a student asked a literature teacher in the middle of an author’s bio, “Why are we talking about this?” the teacher would be absolutely flummoxed. After the stammering and confusion pass, the teacher would probably say something like, “Well, it’s important to know where the author is coming from.” But this is a platitude. It’s an unexplored, unexplained truism we have come to accept because we have heard it so often.

I figured out a few years ago that reading all of that introductory material interfered with my ability to properly process the book for myself, so I never read it. I skip it, read the book, and if I am sufficiently interested in the author’s back story or haven’t reached conclusions about the book, I read the introduction after I finish. Gibbs strikes at the heart of why I take this approach:

Nine times out of ten, knowing “where the author is coming from” is simply leverage for dismissing all the stickiest, most confrontational claims the author makes. “Where the author is coming from” means that none of his claims about truth is objective or transcendent but materially connected with his experience. All of his assertions and claims invariably arise from demographics. The introduction offers information on the author’s race, income, upbringing, religion, thus readers can tie whatever they don’t like in the book to something external to it. Of course Jane Austen says that—she’s white. Of course Eugene Vodolazkin says that—he’s Orthodox. Of course Cormac McCarthy says that—he’s actually quite rich. Well, of course you say ‘Of course’—you’re a Marxist. I guess two can play that game.

A concern for “where the author is coming from” means the author’s claims can be tied to his biography, his biography can be tied to his claim, and a tight little circle is created which keeps the reader from ever really entering into the book, submitting to it, or being judged by it. “Where the author’s coming from” may sound personal and humane (and empathetic or whatever) but often involves throwing major truth claims down the black hole of biography.

Again, I agree. We have become experts at dismissing truth, even unassailable truth, when its source is someone or something with which we stridently agree on most everything else. I thought about this again today when I saw this post from Michael Knowles:

I did something I rarely ever do on Twitter, because I am so thoroughly cynical about its aims. I read a few comments. I did that because I realize, as I’m sure many of you do, that the vast majority of people who have made news for snapping in various ways, are usually reported to be on some kind of psychotropic medication. By the way, this is true all the way back to the Columbine boys of 1999. Because of that, I wanted to gauge the reactions to this old Tom Cruise interview. Without fail, more than a few people pointed out that as a Scientologist, he can’t really offer anything of worth that they want to hear.

I was immediately reminded of this Joshua Gibbs article about skipping the back story and simply engaging with the ideas when we encounter information. I tend to be pretty good at compartmentalization by nature, so I haven’t ever really had a problem with this. Besides that, I am also a Christian who follows the tenets of a book full of men whose behaviors sometimes ranged from imperfect to despicable, and yet whom God still used.

But I can’t help but wonder how much of where we are right now is due in large part to our tendency to disregard warnings and truths we’d rather not hear, using the source of said truth as an excuse not to look a little deeper.

Do you read those intros at the beginning of classic books? Why or why not?

Friday Faves: Farmhouse Vacation

Last week our family spent several days in a rented farmhouse on a beautiful piece of land. It was a nice getaway. We have concluded that after nearly a week of running free in a rural space, our dog may have been slightly depressed to return to the constraints of a suburban yard with fences and boundaries. That may be true.

Enjoy some of the scenery that we enjoyed last week.

Petting the horse we named Phil.

Meet Phyllis (we named her too)

We didn’t name the cows.

Isn’t this lovely?

We also spent a couple of days in a nearby small town with really great shops, atmosphere, and food scene.

I hope over the next week to add more thoughts from Carl Trueman’s Rise and Triumph of the Modern Self.

Have a great weekend.

Jordan Peterson’s Dragons, Monsters, and Men

I preface this review by pointing out that this series, like Matt Walsh’s excellent documentary on gender ideology, is only available to Daily Wire subscribers. We don’t pay streaming service companies of any kind for entertainment, but we have made the decision to support an alternative sources of news and commentary in response to the current monopoly of view dominating the culture. The Daily Wire -a secular company run by religious men- is not perfect, and neither is Jordan Peterson. This is solely a review of one the first episode of his new Daily Wire+ series entitled Dragons, Monsters, and Men. It is also not a referendum on Ben Shapiro or Jeremy Boreing.

As intimated in my preface, Dr. Jordan B. Peterson has joined the Daily Wire team to offer a series of episodes devoted to encouraging young men to be all that they can in a world and culture that is undermining them at every turn. If you saw the two-minute video posted here a couple of weeks ago, it is quite obvious that Peterson possesses a deep well of compassion for the plight of men in the postmodern west. I presume that it was with this in mind that he collaborated with DW to produce Dragons, Monsters, and Men. Below is the announcement of the collaboration which has the trailer buried in it, beginning at the 2:25 mark. I couldn’t find the trailer in isolation.

I listened to episode one while doing some housework, and was thoroughly impressed by what Peterson had to say. Anyone who is familiar with him will have heard most of this before in some form. However, the conciseness of the advice offered in this format was much more palatable than in Peterson’s books, which have sections bogged down by Jungian gobbledygook.

With common sense admonitions such as “tell the truth, always”, Peterson expounded on what it means to be honest about you really believe even when the reception will be tepid or hostile. He pointed out, and I can concur, that whatever the discomfort, the liberty and adventure that you’ll experience makes your life far more meaningful than going along to get along.

His old school encouragement to take a job, any job, and then become good at it (he used a dishwasher as his touch point), flies in the face of our postmodern obsession with comfort and the perception of glamour.

“Come to work 15 minutes early, stay 15 minutes late, and learn all you can about the other jobs in the restaurant so you can move up”? It’s not new advice. Mike Rowe has been preaching it for years, but for whatever reasons, Jordan Peterson has captivated the imaginations of thousands of floundering young men, and here, he stewards that position well.

The first episode has some typical Peterson psychological detours, but overall, it’s good , common sense reminders of what it takes to be a man of confidence, competence, and a contributor to the world in a meaningful way by mastering yourself first and foremost. Much of this is excellent advice for young women as well, with a few tweaks.

It would be quite easy to brush this off as not necessary because this has all been said before. My take is a little different. When I hear bedrock truths offered in ways that I need to be reminded of, I recall the words of the Apostle Paul:

To write the same things to you, to me indeed is not grievous, but for you it is safe.

Philippians 3:1b

If we didn’t need to be reminded to do what’s effective and right, surely the world would be a far better place. So I won’t begrudge Peterson for saying something he has said many times before. As any parent can tell you, it is not only safe, it’s necessary.

Rise and Triumph of the Modern Self: The Rousseau Effect

I’m still reading through Carl Trueman’s Rise and Triumph of the Modern Self. I took a break to read How to Cook a Wolf, took a break to travel a bit, and more breaks are still to come. This is a good thing, because Rise and Triumph offers its reader so much information, that taking the occasional break to process it all is helpful as you move through it. I started out reading with a very targeted plan to read it relatively quickly since I am reading along with a friend. I wanted to keep up with her, but she is also taking breaks to properly process everything that Trueman is offering.

The first post in this series was about the ways in which emotivism has ushered the west into a third world culture. In this post, we’ll explore how the philosophy and writing of Jean-Jacque Rousseau have contributed to this development. Despite a passing knowledge of the name Jean Jacque Rousseau, and a cursory knowledge of the drivel he espoused, I was wholly unaware of how much his philosophies have influenced and shaped the modern age. Before we dive deeper into Carl Tureman’s description of Rousseau’s impact, consider this quote from The Circe Institute’s 2010 article, Rousseau’s Maddening Legacy:

Few men have exerted the far-reaching influence of Jean-Jacques Rousseau. 

In the eighteenth century, a time when the influence of writers dominated, Rousseau was most influential.  From educational and parenting theory and moral relativism to the political theories of Marx, the rise of totalitarianism, and revolutions from France to Russia, almost every ill of the modern age can trace its philosophical and spiritual roots to the writings and life of Jean-Jacques Rousseau.  How’s that for a legacy?

The article then gives a brief history of how Rousseau’s writings rose to prominence as one of the most impactful legacies of the 18th century Enlightenment:

Born in Geneva, Rousseau’s early life was characterized by abandonment, sexual perversity, exhibitionism, self-pity, and an insatiable vanity.  He was desperate for fame and believed himself set apart from other men.  He moved to Paris and associated with such Enlightenment powerhouses as Voltaire and Diderot.  After many false starts, Rousseau’s chance for notoriety finally arrived in 1749 when, at the age of 37, he learned of a contest sponsored by the Academy of Dijon.  The Academy would award a prize for the best essay on this topic: “Has the restoration of the sciences and arts contributed to corrupt or to purify the morals?” Consider the year 1749. This is the Enlightenment, the Age of Reason.  The Academy chose a topic to allow writers to glory in the great advancement in civilization since man threw off the shackles of religion and embraced unaided Reason.  This was an opportunity for self-congratulatory prose.  So Rousseau, a master self-promoter, decided to argue the opposite so as to stand out.[1]

He attempted to demonstrate “that man is by nature good, and that only our institutions have made him bad!” 

Rousseau won first prize and achieved overnight fame. In one essay, Rousseau destroyed 2,500 years of classical and Christian thought about the nature of man, and the world is still suffering.  The implications of the rejection of original sin are vast. 

It is this legacy, and the resultant rise of the individual expressive as supreme over the individual belonging (to something greater than himself), that planted the seeds of the tree which we now see bearing toxic fruit. Like Eve in the garden, we all took a bite, and most swallowed, but fewer and fewer of us seem willing to take the antidote to heal us from the poison. In Rise and Triumph, we are offered the compelling reasons why western culture so readily embraced this Rousseauan vision of humanity; one in which a person’s dignity and value is completely disconnected from anything outside himself. His psychological beliefs about himself are all that matter:

Rousseau regards individuals as having an integrity and a value that derives from their inward self-consciousness and not from the society in which they exist (such a society being, by definition, something that is liable to make the individual inauthentic), so all individuals have a value in themselves and not derived from their intrinsic position in a social hierarchy. As with expressive individualism, this egalitarian impulse we note here in Rousseau will prove a critical precondition for the rise of modern identity movements and their contemporary political manifestations…

Rise and Triumph, pages 126-127

Because most of you reading this are thoroughly western and steeped in postmodern, egalitarian philosophy, that probably doesn’t sound nearly as bad to you as it should. Take comfort. I had to deconstruct the problems with it in my own mind and heart as well. Rather than get bogged down in a political discussion of LGBTQ rights (although our current acceptance the idea of a man trapped in a woman’s body is the best example of Rousseauan “logic”), here is a less charged example:

I’m a wife with five children, two of which my husband and I are still legally and morally responsible for. This morning, I got up at 4:55 and by 5:15 was involved in morning devotions with my family. When we finished, I spent 45 minutes walking for my health. Arriving back home, I immediately began the work of helping my husband prepare to tackle his 10-hour workday (probably closer to 12 hours). I ironed his clothes, cooked his breakfast, and cleared up the kitchen. When the kids awoke for the second time, I sat and talked with them for half an hour before taking the time to sift through the morning’s headlines, read emails, and played Wordle.

When I finish this post, it’s off to buy groceries and run errands related to our household. I also have a few things to do related to work I will be embarking on in August as well as some things for my husband’s work. Then I must begin working on dinner. My weekdays usually looks like some variation of this routine.

Do any of these things make me a good person? Of course not. Do they make me a good wife and mother? I don’t feel comfortable saying that, but I would wager that if you asked my husband or kids, they would answer in the affirmative, and I find an immense amount of personal value in that assessment. Do they make me a better wife and mother than another wife and mother? Not at all, because the worth of another family’s wife and mother has to be measured by that particular family and its particular needs.

However, regardless of the family, suppose I woke up and did something else. Suppose I woke up, flipped on the television, grabbed my phone to scroll Facebook and Instagram, while leaving my kids and husband to fend for themselves all morning before rising at noon to spend all day solely engaged in the personal pursuit of pleasure. Does that make me a bad wife and mother? Again, that mostly depends on the needs and assessed value of the particular family in question. In my family, the answer is a resounding yes. The occasional slacker day is not a big deal, but it can’t be the norm.

In Rousseau’s economy however, both examples may be equally good and right so long as the woman in question feels that what she is doing is good and right. In fact, anytime I get up and run that morning gauntlet while not feeling like it, Rousseau’s philosophy would characterize me as oppressed, forced into an inauthentic life due to societal and familial pressure. The fact that I find worth in the fact that my family finds it valuable makes it even worse.

Now…does that philosophy sound familiar, and can you see the problem with it?

This is what Carl Trueman is brilliantly illustrating in chapter 3 of Rise and Triumph of the Modern Self.

The first post in this series can be read here.

History Nerd Post: Juneteenth Edition

This post, as originally posted, has an error. I mistakenly said that Kentucky was a Union state along with Delaware, when I listed the two states that kept slavery in effect until December, 1865.

As an American Descendant of Slaves (commonly referred to as ADOS Americans), let me begin by saying that I am mighty pleased to be living a happy and free life marked by liberty and prosperity for every one of my 50 years on the planet. I do not take it lightly; those who risked everything, even paying the ultimate sacrifice, for me to experience the rights and privileges I now enjoy. For the sake of clarity, I will elaborate on said privileges by borrowing the words of Glenn Loury:

The influence of black people on the culture of America is stunning and has global resonance. Some 40 million strong, black Americans are the richest and most powerful population of African descent on the planet. There are 200 million Nigerians, and the gross national product of Nigeria is just about $1 trillion per year. America’s GNP is over $20 trillion a year, and we 40 million African-Americans have claim to roughly 10 percent of it. We have access to ten times the income of a typical Nigerian. What is more, the very fact that the cultural barons and elites of America—who run the New York Times and the Washington Post, who give out Pulitzer Prizes and National Book Awards, who make the grants at the MacArthur Foundation and run the human resources departments of corporate America—have bought in to the new woke racial sensibility hook, line, and sinker gives the lie to the pessimism that the American dream doesn’t apply to blacks. It most certainly and emphatically does apply, and it is coming to fruition daily.

Glenn Loury, The Case for Black Patriotism

The aforementioned should go without saying, but seeing as nothing ever does, I thought it only right to begin there before I do what follows. I don’t like being the voice of contrarian controversy, but the reality is that what we celebrate as Juneteenth (the day in June 1865 when slavery was officially ended in America), is a historical fiction. Slavery still existed in the United States -and in one Union sate, no less!- until December 1865 when the 13th Amendment was finally ratified.

Two states held on to slavery until the bitter end: the official ratification of the 13th Amendment. Those were Delaware and Kentucky. Delaware, by the way, was a Union state.

It’s okay if you didn’t know that. Most Americans have no idea that slavery was practiced in the north as well as the south. We’ve all been captive to a historical and political binary which erases nuances and complexities in favor of white or black hats. Our education is inundated with it and always has been.

However by all means, enjoy your day off to celebrate the end of slavery. This is not intended to rain on your barbecue. The history teacher in me just couldn’t let this go uncorrected.

Maybe I’ll bake my family a freedom cake on December 6th.