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Friday, October 28, 2005

Kickoff

Here's a wonderful URL to kick off the fact that my latest book is shipping:

http://www.sacbee.com/content/news/religion/story/13752388p-14594085c.html

The book is, of course, Designed to Fail: Catholic Education in America.

Here's the raves it's gotten so far:

"At this pivotal moment in the history of Catholic education in America, Designed to Fail is an important addition to this critical conversation. By examining the past and the present condition of Catholic education in America, Kellmeyer boldly proposes provocative and challenging solutions for its future. Whether you agree with it or not, this book should be read and considered soberly by anyone involved in Catholic education or pastoral work."

--- Benedict T. Nguyen, M.T.S., J.C.L., Chancellor, Diocese of La Crosse, WI

"Rarely have seen such indisputable truths packed in so few pages...Steve Kellmeyer has written an intriguing book that will shift American Catholics ways of thinking about parental responsibility for their children's religious education. Kellmeyer insists, and backs it up with both magisterial statements and historical fact that the sorry state of doctrinal knowledge on the part of the Catholic faithful is due not only to to the abdication of parental responsibility but also to the wrongful hierarchal takeover of Catholic teaching to children via Catholic grammar school run largely by religious.

After the Second Vatican Council, these same orders began to lose both personnel and vocations, leaving in their place, teachers who either were not faithful Catholics or ignorant of Catholic teaching . Both the hierarchy and parents seem not to realize that hundreds of years of the handing on of Catholic faith and tradition have been virtually obliterated in the course of decades. The results are all around us. Kellmeyer provides hope that the "new Evangelization" called for by the late Pope John Paul II can be realized by parents reasuming their primordial and inherent responsibility as teachers of the Faith in the family."

--- Rev. C.J. McCloskey III, a Fellow at the Faith and Reason Institute based in Washington DC.

Writing with strong conviction, in a clear and direct manner, Kellmeyer captured and held my attention from the very first chapter in which he presents a dramatic, but realistic portrayal of the current crisis in Catholic education. I did not expect to agree with him, but his arguments are indisputable.

Steve Kellmeyer has written a powerfully enlightening and intriguing book which analyzes the historical factors behind the current crisis in the Catholic parochial system. This book will most certainly impact the way that American Catholics view parental responsibility for their children’s religious education and, hopefully, will result in positive changes to bring about a solution to the crisis. Designed to Fail is a must read for all adult Catholic laity and Religious who are interested in the education and catechetical formation of both Catholic youth and adults in America.

--- Jean Heimann, retired school psychologist and educator

In the past, fifty percent of all Catholic Children attended Catholic school. Today only twenty percent attend. In Designed to Fail: Catholic Education in America, Steve Kellmeyer takes us back in history to the time when the first cracks began to appear in Catholic education and shows how misunderstanding, ignorance, a lack of obedience and at times, authorities misleading us, has brought the Catholic schools to near total collapse. He then explains what each of us, Religious and laity, need to do to pick up the pieces.

From the very first paragraph, this book held my attention as it presented in an easy to read style, why we find our schools and our families in the situation we are currently in. I didn’t expect to agree with the Author, when I first sat down to read this book, but from the first page to the last he presented the crises while adhering to factual truths, that spoke for themselves, in an interesting and understanding way.

I feel that Steve Kellmeyer’s book Designed to Fail: Catholic Education in America, should be a must read for every Catholic, from Priest and Bishops to the laity. There is a passage that stood out for me that began with Scripture: “Suffer not the little children and forbid them not to come to me…Many assume it forms part of a divine mandate which authorizes the Church to teach children. It doesn’t…It demonstrates Jesus didn’t teach children…” I strongly recommend that you read this book for yourself and find out why the Author feels this way and what steps need to be taken to correct this crisis.

--- Debra Vandelicht

Wednesday, October 26, 2005

Modern Medici

“Self-published? Ah, I see. Well, we don’t work with that class of material, if you get my meaning.” So said the book review critic, and therein lies a tale.

A few centuries ago, no artist in any field could get anywhere without a patron. Someone had to pay for the time and material. Getting large amounts of metal or marble for sculpture, acquiring the exotic pigments and physical placements necessary for painting, even paying the artist for the large amounts of free time necessary to work raw materials into form was expensive, especially in a subsistence-level economy. Only the wealthy could afford to commission art work.

But, as Julian Simon documented over and over again, the cost of materials always drops over time. As the cost of materials dropped, the need for patrons in most areas of art also dropped. When an artist can afford to buy his own materials, he generally dumps his patrons.

After all, patrons are messy to deal with. They have a vision for the artwork, the artist has a vision and the two visions often clash. As soon as it was practicable to drop the patron, the patron was dropped.

So, today no one turns their noses up at a "self-published" sculptor or painter. But they still turn their noses up at self-published writing. Why? Because, until just this century, it still required a ton of money to print a book.

Ever since writing was developed, creating a book has been a high-cost business that only the wealthy could afford precisely because so many techniques had to be mastered in order to produce a printed book. And this is the difference.

Until recently, writing was unlike the other areas of artwork. In other areas, the patron supplied the raw material and the location where the art would be displayed, but the artist supplied all the technique. The printed book, however, is its own piece of artwork in which the writing is but one part of the total composition.

Consider: to print a book used to require not just a writer, but several experts in various technical disciplines all working together. Even if a writer had the money to buy a printing press, it was unlikely he would have the arcane knowledge necessary to run it himself. He would need to supply skills like typography and typesetting, layout, graphic design, and book-binding, not to mention the cost of both the printing press and its operators. These are all aspects of technique just as surely as the writing is. Like a soloist in an opera, the writer was just the best-known person in the process.

But, computers have changed all that. The printing business was the last artistic discipline to have a high cost of entry. It is only within the last five years that the entry-level cost has dropped to the base level that has been current in other areas for centuries.

In this respect, the great publishing houses that remain on the scene today might be likened to the Medicis and the Church curia. They are guilds whose historically significant presence and power is slowly being undermined. Apart from the marketing aspect, upstart artists no longer need a publishing house patron to insinuate itself into the artistic process. They can do it all on a cheap laptop.

Some say that this loss of patronage, of publishers, will inevitably erode the quality of printed material. Perhaps this is true. Certainly there is no shortage of execrable canvas and sculpture artists today. On the other hand, it is clearly the case that “professional” publishers aren’t exactly producing stellar work either.

Can anyone really defend most of the latest best-sellers as examples of the writer’s art? Harry Potter? Mitch Albom? Or the piece de resistance: Dan Brown? Please.

Brown's blockbuster was as badly-written and badly-researched a screed as any third-rate scrivener might ever hope to produce. It hit the bestseller’s list primarily because it hit the right cultural buttons with the 10,000 critics who received advance copies of the book. For the uninitiated, a 10,000 book run is what a publishing house normally sells of a single book. LIke the Medicis of old, Doubleday had so much money to burn they could gave away a full print run just for publicity. In short, Brown's work just proved that, like a Chicago election, a best-selling book can be bought.

So, while many argue self-published works are not of high quality, this is simply the Medici art patron attempting to hold sway over a process that is increasingly becoming independent. As with the canvas or the sculpture, attacks on the quality of self-published works is a fig leaf for the real animus against the self-published.

Established publishers have a vested interest in retaining the vestiges of their guild. That is, they have a vested interest in making sure their customers regard all competitors as non-functional or marginal. As computer technology mushrooms the number of competitors, this will become increasingly difficult to do. With the computer, technique has been rendered into a material cost, and material costs have been pushed into the dirt.

Unfortunately for writers, the same thing that happened to the other art disciplines is also happening to writing. Just as few people spend much time in art galleries anymore, so fewer and fewer people in each generation are reading. That is, as the cost of entry into a discipline drops, the general interest in the product also drops. With writing, as with every other artistic discipline, people are interested in the unusual, and if everyone is special, if everyone can publish a book, then there's nothing special about getting a book published.

Today, the fascination is with Hollywood and, to a lesser extent, the Internet. Movies still costs far more in material and skills than most individuals can cover on their own, while computer programming is still an arcane discipline that is not yet amenable to being rendered into a commodity. But video costs are coming down, as is theater attendance, and web sites have mushroomed, making it difficult to stand out in the very large crowd.

Here's the great irony. The self-published book will eventually destroy the modern Medici.

But when it does, no one will care, because no one will be reading.

Friday, October 21, 2005

A Homeschooling Moment

Many people seem to have an odd idea that homeschoolers cage their children in the house. The following is a vignette passed on to me by my wife from her homeschooling group. It is rather informative.

Well, we have been on vacation for the past two weeks. and I learned
a little something about how homeschooling is percieved by folks. We
stayed at white pines state park for 4 days, where you can rent a
charmingly small (!) cabin. There were lots of elderly couples there
who found our children to be quite entertaining. It was neat to see
my kids engage in real discussions with adults, who were genuinely
interested in speaking with them. I was very pleased with how my kids
handled things.

My daughter would practice her violin each night, as she
requested, "by the light of the moon" and people would walk by our
cabin and smile or ask questions. she and her little brother built a
pinecone pathway in front of our cabin, and again, the other cabin
guests were very interested in stopping and talking. Not to brag, but
I was so please to see my kids talk to these people and have REAL
conversations.

So it was of great interest when a group of older couples met up with
us wanting to know why the kids were not in school all week! These
people were charmed all week long by my kids, but when I answered
that we homeschool, they all stopped and were shocked into silence
for a few moments.

Finally I had to offer, "look around you! (at the beautiful nature of
the state park) look at what my children are learning about this
week! you cannot get this in a classroom!"

I have to laugh remembering the reactions of the elderly couples at
this point. Because suddenly they snapped to, and bent over
conversing with the kids again. They began telling the kids of all
the wonderful things they had seen at the park. Clearly, they had
realised that homeschooling was NOT what they had thought, and were
ready to encourage the kids to learn from nature.


I thought it was so neat.
most people meet my kids and see what we do and think it is
wonderful. But as soon as they associate it with 'homeschooling' they
balk! it must be hard to shake the infamy of the homeschool moniker.
I for one, would like to keep updating the image of homeschoolers.

Monday, October 17, 2005

Designed to Fail

Within the next two weeks, my newest book, Designed to Fail: Catholic Education in America should begin to ship to bookstores across the country.

Unfortunately, this latest news story from CNN arrives on my desktop too late to include in the book. Let's just say this kind of thing is not exactly news in the Catholic community...

Update:
Oh my heavens, here's an even better link.
It seems ten other Catholic schools in the area have the same problem.

Thursday, October 13, 2005

Kill Zone

As at least thirty-four former New Orleans inhabitants would tell you if they could, hospitals are deadly places.

According to both the New York Times and CNN, in the week following the hurricane ten people out of the 24,000 person population in the Superdome died. The New Orleans Convention Center was twice as dangerous: of the 25,000 people there, twenty-four died.

But the real violence appears to have been at the hospitals. There were 312 patients at Memorial Medical Center when the hurricane hit. A week later, thirty-four of them were dead.

Now, the populations at both the Superdome and the Convention Center were made up predominantly of the poor, old and the very young – the populations most likely to die no matter what the circumstances. And, despite reports, it turns out that most of these deaths were not due to violence, but to natural causes.

What happened at the Superdome and the Convention Center did not even rise to the level of a complex emergency, according to Harvard studies. But what happened at Memorial Hospital was worse than decimation. When a population is decimated, only one in ten is killed. Memorial managed a better percentage than that.

This is especially true since most of the deaths appeared to have happened on a single night. Weeks ago, there were anonymous reports in European newspapers in which an American doctor claimed to have murdered several patients in a flooded New Orleans hospital. Given European attitudes and journalistic practice, and lacking further detail, this seemed a report best ignored until more could be discovered.

Well, it appears more has been discovered.

While the MSM were hovering like vultures around three corpses at the Superdome, real murders were happening elsewhere.

It has been noted before that America needs to kill the baby boomers. There are too many of them to be supported by today’s population. This is especially true given that today’s population has seen between one-half and one-third of its members killed in the womb either by surgery or through hormonal “contraception.”

The irony is enormous. The boomers spent their lives killing their own children, now the children will spend their lives killing the boomers. After all, murder – whether it is called euthanasia or involuntary suicide - is much cheaper than actually paying for all the health care the aging population will need. Besides, the organs will come in handy.

As we wait for further reports from New Orleans, we live in a strange mix of 1984 and Brave New World. The language is even now being “adjusted” a la Orwell, but Huxley's big screen televisions distract from the reality. As Memorial Hospital and other hospitals like it slowly become morgues for the living, the attention of the crowd is diverted by the antics at CNN, MTV, and the rest.

Sleight-of-hand becomes the order of the day. Syringe, syringe, who’s got the syringe? If you find it, you win the kewpie doll! Please step to the right as you die to make room. The next corpse approaches, stage left.

Ah, and there’s the question. We call a child after conception a “pre-embryo.” Will we call the hospitalized person a “pre-corpse”? We changed the definition of pregnancy from fertilization to implantation. Will we change the definition of death to “socially useless”? If not, why not? If persons are defined according to whether or not they are wanted, and no one wants the old and injured, then is it murder to kill a pre-corpse?

These are the questions we are beginning to ask as we sunbathe in the Kill Zone.

Monday, October 10, 2005

A Two-Fisted Party System

Adolescence is a virtue, at least when it comes to the economy. This point is not a new one, but it leads to an interesting way of looking at the American two-party system.

Commentators seem divided over how best to think about the Republican and Democrat parties. Some argue that the two parties are irrevocably opposed to each other, locked in mortal combat in much the same way that Eurasia and Oceania were in George Orwell’s famous novel, 1984.

Others disagree. They assert that the two parties have policies that are very similar and are in that sense allied, much as were Eastasia and Oceania in that self-same novel.

Both positions are, of course, correct.

Why Capitalism Succeeds

It has been noted here before that the capitalist system is better than any of the competing systems that have been seriously attempted to date at seeing to the creature comfort of men. However, it suffers from a remarkable flaw: successful capitalism requires the destruction of adults.

The reason is simple. Capitalism is built on the practice of separating men from their money. In order to do this, the persons in question must (a) have money and (b) be easily separated from it.

It is nearly impossible to separate a mature, stable adult from his money. A serious father and husband will store up most of the resources he earns in order to assure his child’s future, a serious mother and wife does the same.

Mature, stable, intelligent adults are not interested in having the newest toy on the block, nor are they typically very selfish about anything. They are generally trained out of whatever selfishness they do possess by their children.

But the frugality of a mature adult is anathema to a capitalist system. As General George Patton once said, “I don’t want you to die for your country. I want you to make that other poor bastard die for his.” If capitalism is a kind of war, then money is the casualty. Business stays in business by making some other poor bastard pay business costs. Products and services are priced with this in mind.

To accomplish the goal, corporations need immature, greedy, whiny people who see every new product as “something to die for.” Since small children don’t have or spend money, since small children interfere with the formation of this attitude, small children should be eliminated, insofar as possible. Indeed, the whole structure of frugal, stable family life should be eliminated, insofar as possible.

This explains a whole host of activities which could not otherwise be explained. For instance, why would a baby food company or a diaper company donate money to Planned Parenthood? Because they are owned by larger conglomerates who understand the big picture. Babies conceive the wrong attitudes in adults.

The Two Capitalist Parties

In this sense, the Republican and Democrat parties complement each other perfectly. The Republicans fight for the rights of business. The Democrats fight for the right to be immature. The Democrats, through their support of contraception, abortion, gay sex, and every other depravity, make selfish personal pleasure into a virtue on the one end while the Republicans make greed a virtue from the other.

Meanwhile, each pretends to fight the other on the opposite planks. The Democrats pretend to fight the inroads of the corporation, but actually milk corporations for every dollar they can squeeze out. The Republicans pretend to be pro-life, but toss only occasional and relatively meaningless slops towards parents with children.

Both parties benefit from having immature citizens and neither is interested in changing the status quo.

Over the last two centuries, America transformed itself from a representative democracy in which corporations were anathema into an oligarchy in which the judicial branch barely bothers to cover its exercise of total authority with the fig leaf of Congressional or Presidential acquiescence. The man in the street votes for Democrats or Republicans, as he chooses, but he always gets the same judges.

No matter who is in the White House, we always get judges who push the boundaries of corporate power ever further into the private sphere. We also get legal opinions which encourage the destruction of the family. But I repeat myself.

The Role of Women

Make no mistake about it: we are not a powerful economic force in spite of the fact that we have so many unwed mothers, we are a powerful economic force because of it.

The system I’ve just described is meant to discourage the production of children because the presence of children might inadvertently create stable, frugal adults. But children still serve an important function. Ater all, the twelve to thirty demographic is the easiest to clip.

Unwed mothers provide the solution. Through them, we get the older children the economy needs while forcing stability upon the fewest adults.

Bastards are children who have no inheritance. Bastards tend to be insecure. Bastards provide capitalist society with the best of both worlds – a society in which there is very little threat of stable families coming into existence or staying in existence, but which still has a demographic whose bank accounts can be easily relocated.

In this way, the inheritance that would otherwise have gone to the child is spent by the parents who have abandoned her. That is, the child’s money is inherited by the corporation. It takes a village to bilk a child.

So, as the Democrats hand out condoms, encouraging adults to immediately pursue pleasure and eternally postpone responsibility, the Republicans beef up the power of the corporation to grab the bank accounts left behind. Like the two fists of a boxer, like the allies in Orwell’s novel, each pushes its own half of a single agenda upon the larger world.

Capitalism always seeks new markets. Those markets have to be laboriously created. It takes time and effort to break into a country and unhinge a stable culture, to convince adults to act like children their whole lives. But, with careful attention to detail and lots of money, it can be done.

Wherever capitalist democracy is planted, this system will take root. And it’s a wonderful system. After all, look what it’s done for us.