Bring On the Civil Discourse

Last week’s column, “Let The Education Conversation Begin,” gives me hope. Thank you to all that responded, especially Mr. Stampolis and SierraSpartan for their agreement on a key issue that the education community must address.

SierraSpartan: “It is my contention that there is far too much bureaucratic duplication in the community college district structure as well.” Stampolis responds: “I agree 100 percent with your statement. There’s WAY too much bureaucratic tail on the tiger, and not nearly enough emphasis placed on in-school instruction.” Now we are getting somewhere. Stampolis to Sierra: “Few Boards are tracked by the public. Let’s shake it up.” I agree with Stampolis we must shake it up and now is the time. That has been my goal from the outset.

On May 4, 2011 the Board of Education will hear a report on the 2010 Civil Grand Jury’s recommendation to consolidate the 31 school districts in Santa Clara County. This item will appear on our agenda at my request. You are all invited to come to participate in the discussion. We will convene this public meeting at 6:30 at our Ridder Park Drive office.

I believe we do have too many duplicative services and salaries and we must once and for all reduce our educational bureaucracy to be lean and mean. Our goals must be focused on each student’s success and not increasing the size of the management system.

On Dec. 9, 2008 I wrote in my first post: “SJI has given me an opportunity to bring the issue of public education to the forefront of our community conversation…I want this (weekly) blog-post to begin a critical dialogue about educational topics that affect the quality of our lives in Silicon Valley.”
Due to my naivety I never thought I would be openly pilloried for sharing my voice with the public on this forum. I actually thought the discourse would be civil and there would be points of nexus on key educational issues.

During an interview aired on Easter Sunday on ABC’s This Week with Christiane Amanpour, Rev. Tim Keller of New York responded forthrightly to Amanpour’s question. She asked Keller: “You talk about polarization between left and right. It does seem to be extreme, at this moment, in the U.S. politically, socially. Is there any hope that that can change?”  Keller responds: “It will start if we stop demonizing each other.” Amanpour: “What should the church be doing different?” Keller: “At the very least we should be creating individuals who know how to talk civilly…So I think my job is to create individuals who can participate in civil discourse.”

For sure, if this was the norm our society would be better off, don’t you think?

Each week when I write I long for a time in our history where we honored civil public discourse and the ability to compromise. It is what I was taught to do by my mother, father, priests and my community, even if I disagreed vehemently with a particular position. Finding facts to support an argument was essential. Today we can no longer agree on the facts for which we can align our positions due to the distrust of the numbers, particularly if they come from government.

Every Tuesday before my column is published I wonder how I will get bashed and from whom. Many of my friends and colleagues think I am masochistic for continuing to write on SJI. I still believe I am providing a small service to the community by my musings and opinions. Last week’s on-line discussion gives me hope that we can civilly agree to disagree and still do so with passion.

What do you think about the issue of continued waste in education? Do you think we should work as a community to consolidate districts? Will the consolidation save money?

Where else is there waste in our system of public education? How do we target more dollars to the classroom; to students?

Next week I will write about the Commission on Equity and Excellence in Education. Rep. Mike Honda got the legislation through Congress to authorize this high -evel commission discussing student equity issues.  San Jose City Hall Rotunda hosted the town hall meeting last Thursday, one of nine occurring throughout the nation.

The issues of student equity for us as a society are gigantic.

Joseph Di Salvo is a member of the Santa Clara County Office of Education’s Board of Trustees. He is a San Jose native. His columns reflect his personal opinion.


  1. “At the very least we should be creating individuals who know how to talk civilly…So I think my job is to create individuals who can participate in civil discourse.”

    I completely agree.  Everyone is entitled to their own opinion.  If you don’t agree, that’s completely fine, but disagree respectfully and professionally.  Bashing people for their opinions won’t get you anywhere.  Instead, it will put up walls of defense and lead to a standstill.  Afterall, teachers and other adults serve as role models for children.  Therefore, we need to show respect for each other before we can preach to children the importance of respect.

    • I am in complete agreement with Sam B. Civil discourse is a must. First and foremost,in order to be effective while trying to reach compromise, cooler heads prevail. Those who fight rarely come to terms with one another. There must be an atmospher created that is conducive to compromise. That is if we really care about our children and current status of our education system.

      • I am with you Sam. Respecting other people’s opinion is important. I commend Mr. Di Salvo for continuously voicing his opinion to get the public started talking about public education.It is time someone took the initiative.

        • I agree with you all. People are allowed to have different opinions from one another. I remember the sayings my mother taught me when I was younger, “Treat others as you would want to be treated” and “If you don’t have anything nice to say, don’t say it at all”. I think that as adults, we should respect others opinions especially when we disagree. It is just common courtesy.

    • I agree! I think that we should always we respecful! Regardless if you dont agree with certain ideas we should not offend or disrespect one another. At the end we are being role models to the young ones and it should be positive role models rather than negative!

    • I agree with you Sam. We need to respect others’ opinions even if we don’t agree with them. You should never put someone down for expressing their opinion. It is okay to agree to disagree. I read these blogs and I’m shocked by some of these comments and how some of these bloggers are bashing people they don’t even know or DiSalvo constantly. It is disgusting. You can state your opinion and be respectful at the same time.

  2. Thank you Joseph for seeking to keep the discussion focused on substance.

    Controlling waste in government has value.  But I hope our first priority is quality output.

    We have examples of neighborhood schools across California that achieve high testing performance even with challenging demographics.  Common threads of structure, order and direct instruction result in high achievement.  Data shows that multiple group in-classroom differentiation does not provide as consistent a learning atmosphere – especially with increased class sizes.

    Regarding consolidation, local community members have to step up and make their own noise.  Voters of small districts like Orchard, Loma Prieta and Burbank can petition for consolidation with neighbors if they wish.  It’s a small enough number of voters in those areas that collecting signatures wouldn’t be that challenging if community desire is there.  A couple weekends with petitions and the job is mostly done.

    The larger issue than consolidation of K-8 districts into other K-8 districts is whether to realign all local K-8 districts into unified school districts.  As long as Santa Clara County has a blend of unified and non-unified districts, it will be impossible to hold the non-unified high school district leaders accountable.  I don’t hear much community support from Berryessa K-8 district residents or Evergreen K-8 District residents or Cupertino K-8 district residents to dissolve their local elementary/middle school districts and have one large East Side Unified School District or one large Fremont Union Unified School District.

    I’m pretty sure we’re not at a point in Santa Clara County where a majority of residents want to merge all districts into one countywide school district with one countywide school board.  If you thought accountability is challenging now, can you imagine having one single unified school district stretching from Palo Alto through Gilroy?

    – Chris Stampolis

    • Chris,

      The SCC Civil Grand Jury’s recommendations are to create several unified districts. In earlier columns I suggested having 4 unified districts for the 120,000 students in San Jose, similar in size to San Jose Unified. The K-12 fragmentation we have now is no good for students and the broader community. The Civil Grand jury took a bite at improving existing structures and saving tax dollars. The laws allow communities to consolidate their districts, albeit a difficult bar to reach due to the adults who want to protect their turf.

      Let a civil conversation begin on the benefits and risks of district consolidation etc.

      • Okay Joseph.  Discussing K-8 consolidation with HS districts sounds like a good starting point.  Twenty K-8 districts could merge into existing HS districts as follows:

        Cambrian, Campbell Union, Luther Burbank, Moreland and Union SDs would merge with Campbell Union High School District to form Campbell Union Unified School District.

        Alum Rock, Berryessa, Evergreen, Franklin-McKinley, Mt. Pleasant, Oak Grove and Orchard SDs would merge with East Side Union HS District to form East Side Unified School District.

        Cupertino Union and Sunnyvale SDs would merge with Fremont Union HS District to form Fremont Union Unified School District (or Cupertino-Sunnyvale Unified School District).

        Lakeside Joint, Los Gatos Union, Loma Prieta Joint and Saratoga Union would merge with Los Gatos-Saratoga Union HS District to form Los Gatos-Saratoga Unified School District

        Los Altos and Mountain View-Whisman would merge with Mountain View-Los Altos HS District to form Mountain View-Los Altos Unified School District.

        Local schoolsite councils and PTAs would not be affected because those are school-specific – not district specific.  Teachers and principals only would be nominally affected – at least at the beginning – because each school still has to operate locally. The elementary school district boards of trustees would dissolve, though the existing HS boards of trustees might expand by a couple trustees each.  Twenty superintendent jobs would be eliminated as would a bunch of other administrators, while some new assistant superintendent positions probably would be created to oversee K-8 efforts.

        Gilroy, Milpitas, Morgan Hill, Palo Alto and Santa Clara Unified School Districts would not be impacted because they already align their K-12 efforts.

        Best regards as I head out now to get fitted for a protective flak jacket,
        Chris Stampolis
        Trustee, West Valley-Mission Community College District
        and parent of two elementary children

      • > Let a civil conversation begin on the benefits and risks of district consolidation etc.

        Teachable moment attempts a lame and half-hearted attempt at civil conversation:

        On district consolidation:

        Principle number 1:  Smaller is better

        Principle number 2:  One size DOES NOT fit all

        Principle number 3:  Let a hundred flowers bloom

        30,000 student school districts strike me as absolutely absurd instances of “education as a factory” thinking.

        My dark suspicion is that the 30,000 number is required only to support a position for a bureaucrat of sufficient stature and pay grade, and has no intrinsic educational purpost.

  3. You’re invited to join in these discussions as long as you are in agreement with Joe about paying teachers six figure salaries, closing the ‘achievement gap’, and not using tests to evaluate progress.

    If you’re not on board at these discussion starting points, then DiSalvo’s education ‘conversation’ is quite happy to chug along without you.

      • Carla K.,
        Your question sort of misses the point I was making but since you asked-
        In my conservative yet humble opinion, teachers, like everybody else, should be paid whatever amount the market will bear. No more and no less. If a school needs to hire a teacher and they offer a qualified applicant $30K/yr. and that applicant accepts the position, then the school district would be cheating the taxpayers if they hired that same person but insisted on paying them $100K/yr.
        Do you go out of your way to pay extra when spending your own money?

        • Interesting comment. That’s right, paying 100K/yr for someone that’s worth $30k/yr sounds ridiculous. but then again, who says what the value should be on a person? John, what do you do? Where are you employed at and how much do you get paid? If just the world was fair like you wish it were and teachers got paid 30K/yr like they deserved, then the world would be a very happy place because then we wouldn’t have CEO’s getting paid millions when they’re not worth that much. So where should the limit be drawn? Why doesn’t’ society just say, ok for you, you get paid this much and for you, you get paid this much?

        • Trying to place a price tag on teaching, is like placing a price tag on your child. Both are precious and needed for our society to continue. I feel many people in society stray away from teaching because it is not considered a “real profession”, nor does it pay like the “real professions”, defined by our society. There is a possibility that if teachers were paid more for the important role they play in our society, them maybe we would attract those who would be great teachers, thus pushing out the average teachers. Just my opinion.

  4. Teaching people to be able to communicate is key.  I work on this with my two sons all the time.  I look for moments that can spark discussion.  During the Prop 8 election, my sons and I witnessed a person taking down the opposition’s political signs and replacing them with their own signs.  I used this moment to discuss how it’s important to respect other people’s opinions even when we don’t agree with them.  It was a wonderful discussion and my sons really learned a valuable lesson.  I agree with the sentiment behind what Voltaire once said “I do not agree with what you have to say, but I’ll defend to the death your right to say it.”  If people can come to realize that without respect, we can’t make any progress towards change, then we will begin seeing the world change.  This is how we can make a difference.  We need to hold politicians and society responsible.  If we get rid of people in positions of power that can’t be respectful, then a change will occur.  Let’s not only teach our children, but let’s demand a change in adults as well!

    • Jennifer,

      What a great opportunity to teach a child a valuable lesson about respecting each others’ opinions. I agree with you that adults need an attitude change sometimes as well. We are our children’s role models. We need to model respect in order for our children to model it.

  5. Joseph,

    Consolidation of school districts is long overdue.  It’s not exactly rocket science, so I’m unclear on why nothing has happened for several decades.

    At any rate, God bless you for getting the subject on the BOE agenda.  I might imagine that many of the Board members are deeply entrenched in maintaining the status quo, however, some good may come out of the discussions.

  6. Consolidation of school districts has been a issue that most school boards have signed resolutions against . I believe that consolidating any school district may not change anything , but will make educational bureaucracy even worse . Two ‘examples’ , one is the Oakland School District , and the Los Angeles Unified School District a large over burdened , overcrowded waste expenditures that totaled $75 million. The Oakland School District sent the state a bill for bailout about 100 million These ‘Unified’ school districts have contributed to some of the waste that has been contributing to the public’s perceptions that public schools are a ‘failure’ . The Small school districts have done better in management .
    A few years ago my school district tried to consolidate with another school district , one of the ‘reasons’ was trying to ‘eliminate’ services , it was pretty much as close as you get to a scheme , but the ‘administrations’ would have taken care of themselves while all the bottom would have faced several negotiation and contact issues .

    If this idea is cure for ending the bureaucracy. I think you have look closely on what consolidation is all about , rather than changing and making education better.

  7. “I believe we do have too many duplicative services and salaries and we must once and for all reduce our educational bureaucracy to be lean and mean. Our goals must be focused on each student’s success and not increasing the size of the management system.”

    This is a great place to start in answering the questions you posed at the end of your article about reducing wastes and getting more dollars into the classroom.  The words bureaucracy and lean (or efficient) don’t seem to go together very well.

  8. Practical ways to achieve consolidation:

    1) If you live in a jurisdiction that has multiple school districts you wish to see consolidated, you’re going to need to send signed communications to each board of trustees that you vote to elect.  And, you’ll be well-served to get others in your jurisdiction to communicate publicly as well.  Your current representatives have a voice and they are “hired” by your fellow voters to represent you and your neighbors.

    2) Letters to the editor of your local papers will have positive impact.

    3) Involve the leaders of your districts’ PTAs and local school PTAs.

    4) Get to know the impact by studying the Academic Performance Index (API) and Adequate Yearly Progress (AYP) data on the California Department of Education website (

    5) Ask the Silicon Valley Leadership Group and your local Chambers of Commerce to consider taking a position in favor of your particular school district unification.

    This is 2011, 161 years after California became a state.  It’s natural that a state with 40 million people is challenging to govern and needs tweaks from time-to-time.  Here in Santa Clara County, we could champion the school district unification movement.  Or, we could find out that local voters do not support the grand jury’s recommendations in this case and prefer to keep separate K-8 and HS systems.

    But either position needs to be communicated by the actual residents of a non-unified district.  Outsiders can’t do much more than present some talking points for conversation.

    – Chris Stampolis
    Santa Clara, CA

  9. I am interested in hearing what the side effects or the results of consolidating districts. What is the overall purpose? I am all for change if the output achieves greater and more production learning opportunities for our students and at the same time honors our teachers.

      • I agree also, it would be interesting to find out what the changes would bring to the schools, teachers, administration, and children. Instead of making class sizes smaller, the districts and schools are increasing the sizes, making teaching that more difficult to help all students in one classroom.

  10. It’s interesting to note that in DiSalvo’s example of what he considers ‘civil discourse’, both of the ‘discoursers’, Chris Stampolis & Sierra Spartan were in complete agreement with one another. Furthermore, the point they were in agreement about was one with which DiSalvo himself was in agreement. It was all very agreeable!
    I finally understand now what the progressives mean when they call for ‘civil discourse’. – Civil discourse is when everybody agrees with ME!

  11. It is going to be interesting to see the changes that arise in the coming years.  I feel that our education system will change dramatically, and I hope that the students are priority!

  12. The question is one of fact.  How will consolidation bring more money already paid by taxpayers to classrooms?  That would be the most persuasive metric in such a discussion.  How will students in the classrooms be benefited from consolidations?

    And if consolidation brings benefits to students, why not campaign for Orchard, for example, to outsource all its K-8 administrative needs to Berryessa?  That would bring about quick action, once outsourcing shows dramatic benefits for students in classrooms without new taxes.

  13. For many years now I have been a supporter of abolishing school districts altogether.  Can you imagine the ramifications on the job market if you were only allowed to work within a certain radius of your home? Silicon Valley would be in turmoil. In large urban areas like New York and L.A. school districts have been drawn around the poorest neighborhoods to keep those children from being able to go to better schools in other districts. If all schools determined attendance by lottery and the wealthy had to worry about their children attending some of the abysmally sub-standard schools the low SES children are forced to attend, you can bet there would be immediate, drastic changes to school funding.

    • Melissa F advocates the abolition of school districts.  Is this dreamy talk or a practical proposal?  Should a resident of East San Jose have to attend school in Bakersfield, an LA student in Oakand or a Crescent City resident in Fresno?  Are you serious? Or is this just within counties?  A Gilroy resident would have to commute daily to Mountain View?  A Santa Claran to Almaden Valley? Eliminate all options to walk to school?

      Melissa, please walk us through your proposal.  What are the real world implications for the people we hire to administer student transportation?  Or, is this just an idealistic “Wouldn’t it be nice…?”

      • Chris,
        Well what do you know. Melissa F fails to respond to your substantive question. I’m shocked. Shocked!

        DiSalvo and his DiSciples are apparently eager to “Let the Education Conversation Begin”, but they’re only too willing to “Let the Education Conversation End” if that conversation doesn’t happen to follow their script.

        I don’t know about you Chris, but I’m troubled by Melissa’s, “school districts have been drawn around the poorest neighborhoods to keep those children from being able to go to better schools in other districts”.
        This suggests that Melissa believes that there is a deliberate campaign by monied interests to exclude poor children from the opportunity to obtain a quality public education. This suggestion is offensive to me. Any ‘educator’ who has played a part in filling this child’s brain with such nonsense has no business playing any role in our public education system.

        • John,

          I believe we both agree there is no “deliberate campaign by monied interests to exclude poor children from the opportunity to obtain a quality public education.”  That doesn’t mean monied interests are fighting to ensure that poor children get better opportunities.  But, not leading a battle for other families’ children doesn’t mean one is seeking to harm them.

          Do some school districts have better performing schools than other districts? Of course. Do people make choices where to live?  Yes.  However, the idea that the Los Angeles County Board of Education has conspired with Los Angeles Unified School District administrators to prevent LA resident students from attending schools in the neighboring Santa Monica-Malibu District is so laughable it barely merits a professional response.

          Within a single school district, theoretically there could be a random admission to selections of schools.  And, most districts have a form of open enrollment within each district.  But, forcing a San Pedro resident to send his children to a school in Van Nuys would be as horrible for the children as demanding that a Century City resident would have to send her children to school in Boyle Heights.

          I don’t know if Melissa F meant “elimination of school districts” or “elimination of school catchment areas” within a particular district.  It does sound like she wants people who live in neighborhoods with high-performing schools to be required to send their children to lower-performing schools elsewhere and for one’s school assignment to be randomize.  I do hope she signs back in so we can continue the conversation and surface practical, real world concerns.  I’ll restate: Does Melissa want to prevent a parent from walking his/her children to school?

        • Gentlemen-

          As interesting as it was to read your attacks on my suggestions and mental capacities, the reason I have not replied is that I’m a graduating student who is preparing to move to Santa Barbara to study for my Master’s degree.  With finals, working my 3 jobs, and a personal life, I do not have the time to dally on the computer and have debates with strangers.

          In regards to my earlier comments, I believe that parents would be responsible for entering their children into raffles for the schools which they wish their children to attend.  Obviously the most desirable schools in a given area are going to fill up the quickest, so parents will have to also enter their children into raffles of less desirable schools.  There will have to be spaces left open in schools in every county for those children who managed to slip through the cracks, but I believe that if the schools which are left open are the least desirable, then parents will be more than willing to donate time, effort, and money to fix these schools up.

          As to my (what appears to be viewed as) paranoid fantasy about districting, one need only read a book by Jonathon Kozol or view a documentary like Waiting For Superman to see evidence of such practices.  I highly recommend you get off your computers and read Shame of the Nation, then come back and debate districts.

  14. “I believe we do have too many duplicative services and salaries and we must once and for all reduce our educational bureaucracy to be lean and mean. Our goals must be focused on each student’s success and not increasing the size of the management system.” I agree with this statement. From the comments on this blog it looks as though people have good ideas for consolidation and I am looking forward to see what is accomplished.

  15. I’m all for district consolidation where sensible but it has to come from within the local communities. Where the County (or preferably the State) can help is in providing incentives (financial or loosening some regulations) and some clarity on complex issues such as school financing formulas (if two districts merge how will the resulting district be funded?).

    The County could also help in avoiding the alarming trend of chartering schools attached to local districts. This results into yet another layer of administration. Look no further than Bullis Charter School which has a superintendent and an assistant superintendent for roughly 400 kids. It’s almost as if the County created a small new district within the already smallish Los Altos School District; a new district without any locally elected representation and non-local oversight by the County.

    • > Heard a new piece of PC education establishment jargon today on KUSP—“students with learning variations”.

      Well, there probably wouldn’t be as many administrator jobs or as much educator juice money if they just called them “students with learning similarities”.

      Just like the PC crowd was getting laughed at over “global warming”, so the started calling it “climate change”.  So now they can get grant money whether the temperature goes up or goes down.

  16. “What do you think about the issue of continued waste in education? Do you think we should work as a community to consolidate districts? Will the consolidation save money?”

    There is far too much waste in education.  It seems to me that the people at the top of the educational hierarchy are the ones that actually get to see the money being put into education, or rather, into their bank accounts.  How is it that we have superintendents making six-figures, along with receiving absurd benefits, but turn around and lay off hundreds of teachers? Who actually thinks increasing class size to 40+ students is the answer?

    I think we should absolutely consolidate districts and in turn save some teachers; thus saving some students.  Students are the reason we are even doing all this and talking about all this right? Let’s start acting like it.

    • I couldn’t agree more with your statement Jamie.  At the school I am student teaching at teachers were having this same discussion about how those who are at the top are getting 6 figure pay checks while they are adding more furlough days, laying off more teachers, increasing tax sizes and ruining the education for our future generation.

      I believe that it can only go up from here and hope that there are changes that WILL happen in the near future to benefit the students.

      • Jamie and Mika,

        The State Legislature could consider a law to limit an educational administrator’s salary to a percentage of the highest rung on the teacher salary scale.  For example if a district’s teacher salary scale maxxes out at $80,000 a year, one could assess that that salary covers ten months of work – an average of $8000 a month.  For an administrator who puts in 12 months of work, the equivalent salary would be $96,000.  Would you add a ten percent salary bump, a 15 percent salary bump or simply limit all administrators to no larger a salary than a teacher can earn per capita?

        I don’t know if the political will exists in Sacramento, but it’s legal for the state to restrict the maximum salary a school district administrator can make.  Are you willing to contact your local legislator and/or other elected officials to advocate for legal change?

        – Chris Stampolis

  17. I think the state should restrict the maximum salary a school district administrator makes. The focus should be on allocating the money for what best serves the students.  I have often heard people say that teachers know the salaries they receive do not match the education and effort extended; however, they choose to teach anyway. (Job of the heart) Why shouldn’t school district administrators be subject to this same philosophy?

    • That’s a good question Connie and I agree with you. Wouldn’t restricting the maximum salary target more dollars to the classrooms and children as well.

  18. I agree with Keller’s statement “It will start if we stop demonizing each other.” People need to respect each others’ differences and come together ready to compromise. It seems like everyone wants to educate our children; we need to find strategic ways of doing this.  Leave the bickering behind and get started on a path to help educate our children.

  19. “Last week’s on-line discussion gives me hope that we can civilly agree to disagree and still do so with passion.”

    I’m equally glad and somehow feel as relieved as you do, Dr. DiSalvo. This is what we should do in a civilized society. Though it’s too early to say anything, we should celebrate this change in attitude.

  20. Within our public school system there is a lot of waist and it seems like that most of the money that is directed to our schools is spent paying all of the administrators.  In other words the funding is not spent on the students.  Providing classroom supplies for students such as up to date textbooks, pencils, art supplies, manipulatives, etc should be the priority.

  21. Here’s a civil question that I invite Joe and Chris to discourse upon:

    Why does education cost so much?

    If all the costs are properly accounted for, (as a private school must do), the cost of educating a student in public school is probably $25-30 K.

    What is the REAL AVERAGE COST per student (“fully allocated cost”) of educating a middle school student in San Jose?

    REAL COSTS need to include school buildings, land, financing costs, FULLY FUNDED pension, retirement, and healthcare costs for ALL education establishment employees, full allocation of the costs of all layers of bureaucracy – local, county, state, and federal.  In other words, if public education were a standalone entity like a private school system, how much would it REALLY cost?

    And a question specifically for Chris:

    Why are college tuition costs increasing so much faster than the cost of living?  Who is getting rich?

  22. > It is what I was taught to do by my mother, father, priests and my community, even if I disagreed vehemently with a particular position. Finding facts to support an argument was essential.


    I flagged your comment from a while back to stew on it for a bit.

    I think it may be one of the most significant remarks you have made here.  Seriously!

    What is significant about it is that it articulates one of the two fundamental “reality visions” that underlie contemporary politics.  The reference to “visions” comes from Thomas Sowell’s books, “Conflict of Visions” and “Vision of the Anointed” in which he analyzes the differing reality paradigms that underlie the beliefs of the “right” and the “left” (although Sowell avoids those words).

    Starting from Sowell’s analysis, it seems to me that the two fundamental political visions today were first captured in the dialogues between Socrates and the Sophist philosophers of ancient Greece.

    In a nutshell, Socrates was interested in attempting to answer the cosmic questions: “What is Truth? What is Virtue?”

    The Sophists were focused on the perfection of the art of rhetoric: their goal was “to make the weaker argument appear to be the stronger”.  In other words, the Sophist answer to the question of “What is True?” is “Whatever argument wins.”

    Socrates and the Sophists represent two fundamentally different, irreconcilable—yet self-consistent—modes of thinking:



    This, I believe, is why the discourse between “Socrates” and “Sophists” is doomed to be eternal, and eternally inconclusive.

    Your comment that: “Finding facts to support an argument was essential” echoes the Sophist goal of winning arguments.

    In contrast, my questioning of your arguments comes from my “inner Socrates”.  What you say may seem to be true, but Socrates wants to know if there might be a truer truth?

    History records that the politicians of ancient Greece sought our the Sophists to learn the rhetorical arts in order to win public office.  And that Socrates was forced by political pressure to drink hemlock.

    I’m depressed.

  23. Is being agreeable a step in the right direction, even if it is on a sarcastic level?  These forums are amusing but nevermind…

    Alas, boiling down Socrates and the Sophists and comparing yourself and others as two opposing sides in the same vein is not truly just, Teachable Moment.  The Sophists did not want to “prove that what they believed is true.”  What they sought and understood was that nothing was certain or provable and thus learned to win arguments while steering clear of truths since, based on where you come from or what society you are in, what is fact and what is believed shifts, based on environment and culture.  Nonetheless, I do understand where you were going with this and when you quote, “finding facts to support an argument was essential,” it’s important to note that facts and numbers and data are constantly manipulated to serve the needs of whomever side it behooves.  As long as we are looking for truths, through data or first-hand knowledge, it’s best to look for all truths, while keeping sight of what is right.  Your inner Socrates seems to hold on to one truth alone so staunchly at times that you just sound like a bombastic pundit.  Seek truth, in all its forms.  Prevent being closed-minded about the limited options we have to transform society and see that we are all doing our best to make our lives and the lives of our children the best we can with what we are given.  With the amount of time you spend on here on this forum, it’s apparent you care and I hope that you are also giving your all to address the problems that arise in our educational system out in the real world instead of simply criticizing every word written in this small corner of the web.

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