Saturday, January 31, 2009

Education/TLR: the Democracy Project

The Texas Ascendancy Campaign will increase the power and influence of Texas so it can be a positive force in our country, leading America back to prosperity, preserving and strengthening our American Republic.

The Democracy Project, which I describe now, will be an important part of this effort. Maintaining our representative democracy has three aspects: (1) foundational, (2) strategic, and (3) tactical.

The foundational aspect of the Democracy Project is knowledge of the foundations of our republic, which means knowing and understanding the constitutions of Athens, Sparta, and Rome. A core group of Texans must understand how these governments rose, flourished, and failed. Some of us must understand well, like our Founding Fathers understood, the histories of these great civilizations. Some of the writers of the Federalist papers signed themselves Publius, after Publius Valerius Publicola, drawing on their knowledge of Roman history.

The Federalist and Anti-Federalist papers are an important debate on the strengths and weaknesses of the American Constitution and some of us must be conversant with the arguments on both sides in order to maintain our American constitutional government. We will lose what we do not understand.

We must understand criticisms of democracy, like that expressed by Walter Lippmann in his book, "The Phantom Public." We can better protect our republic if we understand its weaknesses.

The Texas Diplomacy Project is an example of the strategic aspect of the Democracy Project. Strategic thinking is the long term plan for gaining political power for Texas and its allies within the American political system.

The tactical aspect of the Democracy Project would include detailed short term plans to gain and exercise political power. For example, Texas members in the US Senate and House of Representatives could start forming a new political caucus, an American Heartland Caucus, that looks out for the interests of middle-American families and the states in the American Heartland, which I think of as the states that are not West Coast and not East Coast states. (The name "Heartland Alliance" is already taken, so we need to be careful in the name we use.)

Texans need to be leaders, not followers. We cannot follow politicians from either the East or the West Coast, and we cannot allow either the Republican National Committee or the Democratic National Committee to set direction for America's Heartland because that job should belong to Texas.

Education is a vital part of the Democracy Project. Our public schools need to introduce our children to Constitutional issues so they understand some of the arguments and concerns on both sides of the debate over ratification. Our universities must make available paths of study that allow some students to become well versed on Constitutional issues. If Texas is going to be a dominant player on the national stage, we need to develop first class Constitutional lawyers.

There is a big overlap between education, law, and leadership (TLR, the Texas Leadership Revolution) in the Democracy Project. The Texas Ascendancy Campaign has many pieces, some of which overlap.

Put together all the pieces of the Texas Ascendancy Campaign and we have a road map to greatness.

Robert Canright

Saturday, January 17, 2009

TLR: Why UT Dallas Should Be Tier One

When Barack Obama moved to Chicago he was supported by the University of Chicago. He received more than money. He was provided credentials (a fellowship), an office, connections, and intellectual stimulation. This support for future leaders is the real benefit of having a Tier One university in a power center, usually a large city. The Texas Leadership Revolution (TLR) is a plan to develop better leaders in Texas to lead Texas and America to a brighter future. Having another Tier 1 university in Texas is important for developing and supporting our future leaders in the way the University of Chicago supported Barack Obama.

What is a Tier 1 university? Usually the Tier 1 ranking refers to the university research budget. Planning to become a Tier 1 university usually entails financial commitments from the state legislature. There is a nice article in the Saturday January 17, 2009 Dallas Morning News, "Dewhurst Says Lawmakers Can Begin Work to Add New Flagship Universities," by Terrence Stutz. The article said there is competition between the University of Texas Dallas, the University of Texas Arlington, Texas Tech, and the University of Houston for money from the state.

It takes more than money to be a great university. Let's rank these universities by SAT scores, throwing in the flagship school UT Austin for comparison:

1.) Reading 550 - 670 & Math 590 - 700 at the University of Texas Dallas
2.) Reading 540 - 660 & Math 570 - 690 at the University of Texas Austin
3.) Reading 480 - 580 & Math 500 - 610 at Texas Tech University
4.) Reading 460 - 570 & Math 490 - 600 at the University of Houston
5.) Reading 450 - 560 & Math 480 - 590 at the University of Texas Arlington

These are numbers fresh from the College Board. UT Dallas already has the intellectual firepower in its students to gain respect on the national and international stages. Yes, UT Dallas students do have higher SAT scores than UT Austin students.

The America Dream is the freedom to be all we can be. No American needs permission to strive for greatness. The University of Texas Dallas can choose to become a world class university without permission from the Texas state legislature. UT Dallas can become a world class university without a Tier One budget. It would help to define what we mean by World Class University, and money is nothing to sneeze at, but the will power and commitment to excel are the prime ingredients.

We do need a clear goal for education. Walter Lippmann, an honest elitist, said, "... men are not good, but good for something ... men cannot be educated, but only educated for something...." [1]. This is the education our children receive today in the public schools and public universities: education for a professional trade.

Here's a better description: "The goal of education is to drag every man as far out of the cave as possible," referring to the Cave Allegory in Plato's Republic. Our young men and women need to lead on the national and international stage because America needs better leaders. It's our civic duty to educate our children for greatness.

Now that UT Dallas students are academically superior to UT Austin students, we need to raise the bar. We need to stop comparing UT Dallas to UT Austin and start comparing ourselves to the University of Chicago and Columbia University. (Yes, Barack Obama graduated from Columbia University.) Forget their research budgets, look at their intellectual influence. Texas politics will keep UT Dallas smaller than UT Austin, and that is fine. Our goal is greatness, not size.

The DFW metroplex needs a World Class University to become a world class city. We citizens of the DFW metroplex need to look to UT Dallas as our cities' flag ship campus, recognizing that UT Arlington and the University of North Texas also serve our citizens.

As the nations' economies around the world are shuddering from the failed policies of East Coast elitists, we must become resolute in replacing the failures in Washington and Wall Street with the best leaders Texas can provide.

The whole world needs Texas ascendant!

Robert Canright


[1] "The Phantom Public" by Walter Lippmann, 1927, ISBN 1-56000-677-3, page 140.

Related Posts:
Texas, New York, and Universities (October 29, 2008)
Texas Needs More Tier 1 Universities (November 12, 2008)

Friday, January 9, 2009

TBAR: "Atlas Shrugged" and Texas

Because times are bad, I was drawn to a book I had not read in a long time: Atlas Shrugged by Ayn Rand. As I read it, I thought, "wow, this is all happening now, the collapse of the American economy because corrupt, incompetent business men threw in their lot with corrupt politicians."

Then the Friday 1/9/09 Wall Street Journal runs this great essay:
"'Atlas Shrugged': from Fiction to Fact in 52 Years" by Stephen Moore.

Here is a quote from the essay:
"Many of us who know Rand's work have noticed that with each passing week, and with each successive bailout plan and economic-stimulus scheme out of Washington, our current politicians are committing the very acts of economic lunacy that "Atlas Shrugged" parodied in 1957..."

I think it is important for Texans to read and discuss Atlas Shrugged if Texas is to lead America back to prosperity.

There is already a connection between Texas and Ayn Rand. The University of Texas at Austin has a Chair for the Study of Objectivism and an Anthem Foundation Fellowship, both held by Professor Tara Smith in the Philosophy Department. And if Texas is to wrestle control away from the New York power brokers and restore the American republic, the citizens of Texas need to understand how dangerous corrupt businessmen can be to our nation.

Texans need to understand the important issues depicted in Atlas Shrugged, recognizing the philosophical errors in Ayn Rand's book. Yes, her thinking is flawed. She paints an accurate picture, then misinterprets the underlying causes of the problems she depicts. The issues in the book are too important neglect this work just because she is imperfect. I believe a healthy discussion on the book's strengths and weaknesses would help Texas chart our path to greatness.

I also see a connection between Atlas Shrugged and the Texas Publishing Project. I envision a business-hero genre. Hank Rearden and Dagny Taggart are heroic business people. Businessmen are almost always portrayed as villains. A few successful books from Texas publishers depicting heroic Texas businessmen could create a vibrant publishing industry. The approach might be as simple as "translating" a cowboy novel plot into the corporate world. A more sophisticated approach might fictionalize a struggle between virtuous, God fearing Texas business persons and a corrupt cabal of New York businesses and their corrupt New York bankers and Wall Street financiers. That's easy, read today's newspapers to see what the bad guys look like. If you don't know what I'm talking about, Google "Bernie Madoff" as a starting point. If you don't know what I mean when I say "business cabal", read The Creature from Jekyll Island by G. Edward Griffin.

When you read Atlas Shrugged, you get pulled into the story and start cheering for Hank Rearden and Dagny Taggart. We could be cheering stories of successful Texas business persons. When our children think of business as exciting and heroic, then we might bring America back to vigorous economic prosperity.

Robert Canright

Disclaimer: I am not endorsing Ayn Rand's philosophy, Objectivism. I am recommending we examine her vision of business corruption and the heroic business person. Following are links related to "Atlas Shrugged"

Here is a link to "Le Monde Diplomatique Discovers Ayn Rand" By Judith Apter Klinghoffer in the History News Network.

Ayn Rand: "Atlas felt a sense of déjà vu" from The Economist print edition, Feb 26th 2009

Sunday, January 4, 2009

TLR / Education: the Jefferson Project

"Where's our Jefferson?" someone I know asked recently. Good question. Thomas Jefferson wrote our Declaration of Independence in 1774, and 233 years later we still have not seen his equal.

Why?

America became a world power in the twentieth century. Our best universities are now considered among the best in the world, but they have not produced a new Jefferson. Perhaps the greatness within a person takes root before college.

Perhaps a person with the seed of greatness needs a particular type of education to bring that greatness to fruition. Our country has not seen great leaders since the days of the Founding Fathers. Examining the education of the Founding Fathers we see they studied the classics.

I found this quote on the internet:

"Thomas Jefferson wrote to his nephew that there were three books every gentleman had to have familiarity with; Plutarch's "Lives", Livy's "History of Rome" and Virgil's Aeneid. In fact, all the founding fathers of note had read Livy and learned much from his history of Rome."

If you are thinking I over looked Abraham Lincoln as a great person, allow me to point out he was home schooled, not a Harvard graduate, and he had studied the classics. Lincoln's Gettysburg Address was based on the Funeral Oration of Pericles.

Thomas Jefferson was home schooled, with a tutor, from ages 5 through 9 (kindergarten through 4th grade). Then Jefferson went to private schools until he was 17. His studies included the Latin and Greek classics. At 17 Jefferson went to the College of William and Mary, where his studies include classical literature.

Perhaps the age of great leaders is past, but let us not give up so easily.

We should educate all our children, from kindergarten through high school, as though each one will become President of the USA. Every child needs an education for greatness, an education that includes a study of classics like Plutarch's Lives of the Noble Greeks and Romans.

Perhaps America will again be blessed with great leaders if we educate for greatness.

TLR: The Texas Leadership Revolution

I propose a Jefferson Project to educate our children for greatness. The public schools could take a step in this direction by incorporating lessons from Plutarch's Lives various parts of the curriculum: History, selected readings within English Language Arts, and selected readings within Social Studies.

Parents do not have to wait for the public schools. Innovation happens best outside bureaucracies. Parents who home school can adopt a classical approach. Charter schools can incorporate a classical approach into their curriculum. Parents with children in the public schools can read and discuss Plutarch with their children. Parents can educate their children for greatness with or without the public schools.

Plano for the Presidency is a blog post I made when I ran for the school board in 2008 that says we should educate our children as though each one might some day become President. The Timeless Way Foundation web site has a page, The 12th Man Writ Large, giving another perspective on the same thought.

Attitude is Everything

Great achievement requires great aspiration. Let us fix our sights on developing in Texas the best leaders America has ever seen.

Robert Canright


Afterward:

If you wish to give this more thought, here are a couple of books that might be worth examining.

"A Thomas Jefferson Education: Teaching a Generation of Leaders for the Twenty-first Century" by Oliver Van DeMille. If you check this out at Amazon, be sure to read the book review that gave the book only one star because the reviewer raises good points. I have looked at this book and I do not think it has the answers we need. Mr. DeMille is well intended, but his analysis is flawed and his conclusions unsound.

"The Well-Trained Mind: A Guide to Classical Education at Home" by Susan Wise Bauer and Jessie Wise

You might wish to examine the website for the Great Books Academy for home schooling.

Thursday, January 1, 2009

TLR / TBAR: The Cicero Project, Lawyers and Integrity

Wednesday December 31, 2008, the Wall Street Journal ran a book review of "The Race for a New Game Machine" by David Shippy and Mickie Phipps. The review was on page A7, entitled "Playing the Fool" and was written by Jonathan V. Last. It was an excellent review and I talked with my son about the story it revealed.

The subtitle to the review is, "How Sony inadvertently helped a competitor and lost position in the videogame market." The subtitle could have read, "How IBM stabbed a business partner in the back." Sony signed a contract with IBM to develop the cell microprocessor, but IBM gave the best parts of the design to Microsoft, a competitor to Sony. IBM helped Microsoft improve upon the cell chip and worked to give Microsoft a competitive advantage over Sony, their business partner. The author of the book, Shippy, wrote he felt "contaminated" as he sat down with Microsoft engineers and betrayed the trust of Sony.

I have often told my son that the greatest thefts and swindles are done with contracts. We talked about this article in the Wall Street Journal. We talked about how trust cannot exist without integrity, that there is a lack of integrity in business, and you cannot trust business partners. I reminded him it can be dangerous to sign a contract written by someone who cannot be trusted. Obviously, IBM cannot be trusted, but then who can be in American business?

I've previously said that integrity is the cornerstone of the Texas Leadership Revolution (TLR). Integrity is also the cornerstone of lasting wealth. Integrity is important in business. There is a cost in protecting yourself against being cheated. Contracts have to be very carefully crafted or very carefully reviewed to avoid swindles.

I propose a Cicero Project to develop in Texas the most capable lawyers in the world. Our lawyers here in Texas must be the best in the world in litigation, contract law, constitutional law, integrity, and civic virtue. The interests in litigation and contract law would contribute to the Texas Business and Arts Renaissance (TBAR). The interests in constitutional law, integrity, and civic virtue would contribute to the Texas Leadership Revolution (TLR).

Why name this the Cicero Project? I thought about who might be considered the greatest lawyer in history. Cicero was a lawyer who gave his life protesting tyranny. He was a lawyer who believed in integrity. The last part of his book, "On Duties," (De Officiis) discussed fraud in great detail, the first part of his book was about virtue. Cicero also wrote "The Republic" (De Re Publica) and "On the Laws" (De Legibus). If Cicero is not the greatest lawyer in world history, he is certainly on the short list.

If you look at the high level diagram for the Texas Ascendancy Campaign, you will see that education is the foundation for all of it. The Cicero Project can extend down to the high school level. Our brightest students should be exposed to the ideas of Cicero. Those young people who aspire to greatness should embrace the spirit of duty and integrity spelled out by Cicero.

All of us can contribute to raising up the star of Texas, to restoring prosperity to America, and to bringing integrity back into American business and politics. Lawyers have a special role in this endeavor, and the Cicero Project can be rallying point for this great work.

Robert Canright

Here are more articles that are part of the "Cicero Project"
Cicero Project and Huntsman Corp  Sunday, June 28, 2009
Raising the Bar by Talmage Boston  Sunday, May 27, 2012
Eight Hundred Years of the Magna Carta  Sunday, May 31, 2015