November, 2009 browsing by month


Just a guide?

Monday, November 30th, 2009

As I read “Science of Success” I found one potential problem. On the one hand, Mr. Koch emphasizes the need for change, transformation, and innovation. As a result, the application of Market-based Management should not be a goal but a guide (xi). However, Mr. Koch later states that Koch Industries strives everyday to apply MBM principles. That sounds like a goal, not a guide, to me. The only reconciliation I see between the two is if MBM principles are continually being innovated as they are being applied.

I have to admit I was very impressed with how Mr. Koch drew from the wisdom of many great thinkers and synthesized them into MBM principles. I believe he is on the right track, but that true key to success, as Mr. Koch himself declares, is innovation or, rather, recognition that change is inevitable. What seems best for societies, organization, and individuals now will change, and that may include a deviation from free-market and personal interest concepts. Overall, the science of liberty – “how humans can best achieve their ends through purposeful behavior” – is essential to the science of success as defined by Mr. Koch (25). Whether success truly follows MBM principles or not, humans have a striving towards something and reach to achieve that goal in the most efficient way possible. Consequently, this would lead to purposeful behavior.

Discussion post for The Science of Sucess

Monday, November 30th, 2009

In The Science of Success, Charles Koch has attempted to synthesize the classical foundations of prosperity and present them as a generalized process for creating sustainable value—in the case of Koch industries this is represented by an impressive history of wealth creation. As you reflect upon the readings this semester, and the foundations of “vision, virtue & talents, knowledge processes, decision rights and incentives,” presented in Science of Success I am interested in whether you think Mr. Koch has missed anything. Has he really created a generalized model of “success” that can be applied to societies, organizations and individuals? How important is the “science of liberty” to the “science of success?”

Do children have the right not to speak Klingon?

Thursday, November 19th, 2009

Ender Wasn’t A Child Soldier

Wednesday, November 18th, 2009
The ‘exploitation’ seen in Ender’s game is something that always has and always will happen to children who show unusual talent and promise.  The unusually bright and intelligent, elite athletes, and gifted musicians are singled out at very early ages, isolated form their peers and given special attention at the best schools and by the best coaches.  They spent hours after schools and during summers perfecting their skills, and are expected to perform and compete at a very young age.  It is true that they have failed to experience aspects of a ‘normal’ childhood, but no more so then any impoverished child who doesn’t have the same opportunities as most.
So there is nothing particularly egregious about Ender’s situation.  His parents consented, he continued to do what was asked of him, and in turn he received special skills and status that he used later in life.  This situation is touched upon by Valentine who tells Ender: “Welcome to the human race.  Nobody controls his own life Ender.  The best you can do is choose to fill the roles given to you by good people, by people who love you.”
That being said, the genuine exploitation of children occurs and occurs often and should be avoided by any decent society worth preserving.  It’s not necessary to specify childhood as a specific right, but the basic human rights of life and safety ought to be guaranteed to children, even when extraneous circumstances retract them from adults.  Enders game seems to have relevance to the practice of child soldiers, of whom here are an estimated 250,000 fighting in conflicts around the world.  There seems to be no justification to the placing of children in direct combat in the modern world.

Exploitation, Choice, and Sacrifice

Wednesday, November 18th, 2009

Like a few other Koch scholars, I too have a problem with the question itself. It seemed to me that despite the incredible pressure experienced by the children, there still existed a choice to be “exploited” for the greater good. To me, exploitation, no matter how distasteful, still requires a certain level of compliance from the exploited; without the consent of the individual, exploitation becomes sacrifice or slavery. For example, many today condemn the living conditions of the urban poor during the Industrial Revolution in Great Britain and the United States as products of “exploitation.” This claim often incorporates a view that the individuals who labored in the newly created markets of industry were somehow coerced or enslaved by greedy industrialists, as if the choice had never been made by the laborer. The repudiation of this time period has much to do with the confusion between exploitation and sacrifice. When someone is “sacrificed” for the greater good, coercion replaces the ability of the individual to choose and becomes something entirely different than exploitation.

The notion of whether or not an individual has a “right to childhood” certainly sparked my interest, as well. This is a problematic debate mainly because it is so hard to define “childhood” or related terms like “innocence.” While I can easily condemn crimes such as child pornography and statutory rape for stealing a child’s innocence, I still can’t clearly define “childhood” as something requiring protection. How should society codify such protections, if necessary?

Going back to the example of the Industrial Revolution, many children worked in sweat shops and weren’t able to obtain an education, was their childhood stolen away? Was this “exploitation” or something more hideous such as “enslavement?”

I wish I could present a well constructed argument either for or against this notion, nevertheless, I continue to be undecided.

Life Worth Living

Wednesday, November 18th, 2009

Yesterday I read an article in the New York Times about a current debate.  Last week the Supreme Court has been listening to arguments about whether or not children should be sentenced to life in prison without parole.  In 2005 the Supreme Court ruled that no person under 18 should be sentenced the death penalty, however the decision of life in prison is still under discussion.  The most interesting part of this argument is that if we are willing to imprison these children  like adults for their wrong deeds shouldn’t they also receive all the benefits of an adult. This article asks how would we feel if our children were treated the same as adults in bars, R-rated movies and strip clubs. It leaves a question about what rights children should be entitled to, and why.

Do children have a right to a “childhood”? I feel that once again we are running into unsteady waters as we all try to define just what a “childhood” should be. I know that my growing years were much different than yours but I also know I wouldn’t change them. Child labor laws are a heated argument, I also remember that I had strong opinions about age restrictions when I was too young to be hired for a job. Just as Richard said; every child is different and unique, growing and maturing at a completely different rate. There is no perfect age of maturation.

The truth is children are more educated than they were ten years ago. Well… I would at least argue that they are more aware of the world around them.  Our youth are also hitting puberty at an earlier age then in the past. We as humans are developing at a faster rate and we need to take these facts into consideration when we talk about what rights are and are not appropriate. 

 I don’t feel like this book is necessarily a good example of “children” being taken advantage of. A child is protected because of their ignorance and naivety about the world around them. In order to be accepted into the battle school these children were considered to be highly above average in their cognitive ability. Ender himself was said to be more intelligent than many of the adults back on Earth. I don’t believe that he was not logical enough to make a decision about what he was doing. More importantly he didn’t give up when the chance was given to him.

We need to protect our children, but we also need to protect them from someone taking away a life worth living.

A Matter of Culture

Wednesday, November 18th, 2009

According to history…this has happened many times. The most prominent example is that of the Greek Spartans (ca. 600-300 B.C.). The government would take away boys at age seven and put them through rigorous military training (hmm…very reminiscent of Ender’s Game). They did so in order to sustain the order of their society (i.e. their exploitation of the Messenian helots, who oftentimes liked to revolt). As a result, Sparta produced the greatest fighting force known to Greek history.

Did these young Spartans lose their childhood? I think not. The procedure ascribed to a normal childhood in their society was to be taken away and become soldiers. This was widely accepted. Mothers proudly gave up their children in order to promote the greater good. I think the same analysis can work with Ender’s Game. Was their culture wrong in establishing this system? That’s debatable. However, they did what they thought best to sustain themselves and provide a future for their children – even if this meant creatively using their children (what we might call exploitation of children). Overall, I think the “right to a childhood,” whatever that may be, is designated by the specific needs of a society and cannot be compared with how we might view a normal childhood today. However, I personally believe in the Golden Rule: do unto others as you would have them do unto you. Thus, I think the best society is one which incorporates this rule, especially in the raising of their children. 

Five Year-Olds, Picketing for their Rights

Tuesday, November 17th, 2009

The “right to childhood”, along with every other “right”, is subject to a diverging definition problem.  We speak quite freely about “naturally emerging order” but the reality of youth is that it needs, and indeed, it craves some degree of structure and instruction.  I applaud the amazing men and women who, for their brilliance of mind and exuberance of energy, could be making much more than they do as teachers, who give their lives to the instruction of children.  And I fully believe that they do so according to the best practices of which they are aware.  Yet they still make mistakes.  And sometimes those mistakes have lasting consequences.  It’s a difficult balance to strike.

Ender’s Game is a great book and has been one of my favorites for a long time.  Yet the urgency of the scenario in Ender’s Game is without parallel in the real world.  On the far other end of the spectrum resides those who argue that a public education system robs children of their right to a childhood since they have no choice but to be in school.  That strict parents who require extraordinary discipline in the pursuit of musical or artistic excellence in their kids are stealing their children’s childhood.  A childhood is not stolen if the child, upon arrival at adulthood is benefitted and consciously grateful for the abilities bestowed by a structured learning environment during the crucial early years of impressionability.  Besides, I know plenty of people who seem to have more than made up for their “lack of childhood” during pre-pubescence with more than adequate post-adolescent delinquency.  

The Lance Larsen definition of “the right of childhood” includes not only a freedom from fear and manipulation, but also a healthy dose of structured learning about the systems or order upon which society is built.  Children have a right to be introduced to the real world, not dumped into it.

The Ambiguity of Exploitation

Tuesday, November 17th, 2009

I have little to add, as Ben and Richard pretty much made my argument for me.  First, the word “exploitation” is so incredibly subjective that its mere use negates the point of an objective argument.  Second, talking about a “right to childhood” isn’t quite as subjective, but as Ben and Richard both pointed out, there are problems with both the ages during which a child is considered to be having a “childhood”, and what constitutes a “normal” childhood.  And finally, anytime you try to base a real-world argument on a completely fictional story, it relies on way too many assumptions.

However, in the spirit of the questions…

Was Ender’s childhood stolen? No, he made choices to participate in the school voluntarily (this ignores the fact that his life was created as property of the state in the first place, which is a completely separate discussion) and thus no theft occurred.

Can exploitation of children be justified?  ANYTHING can be justified at any time and for any reason.  (The question is whether or not society and/or you as an individual accept the justification).

EXAMPLE:  I have 2 kids.  My little boy is four and he loves to help his dad.  On almost a daily basis I will have him run little errands for me (things like go to the fridge and bring me a drink) – it qualifies as exploitation (I don’t pay him for it), and I justify it because he enjoys doing it.  You can decide whether you accept my justification or not.

Invented Rights

Tuesday, November 17th, 2009

There is no right to childhood unless society or the state grants the right to childhood. A right is nothing but a legalized privilege. Until a right to childhood is granted through some legal means, there is no right there at all. This means that the adults who manipulated and abused Ender stole nothing from him. What could they steal? His expectation for a normal childhood? (It must be a normal childhood that we mean when we say a right to childhood; Ender didn’t actually lose his childhood except as childhood is taken to mean a carefree space of time before adulthood.) Ender didn’t lose his expectation for a normal childhood (if he ever had it at all); at most, it was simply left unfulfilled.

This is the conundrum we place ourselves in if we insist of talking about all goods in terms of legalistic rights. How can we express what was taken from Ender using rightspeak? Since it was nothing material, it is hard to describe. In the end, our desire to condemn this action leads us to inventing rights that are neither intuitive nor derived through reason. To take a real life example, we have the debate between pro-choice and pro-life Americans. Both sides, shepherded by tradition into using rightspeak, invent rights (the right to life and the right to choose) that are obviously unintuitive, since large populations disagree over whether they exist. In addition, neither of these rights can be convincingly derived from nature, God, or science. In their urgency to condemn the other side, pro-life and pro-choice groups invent rights since they believe that only rights can be violated. In the same way, we might feel that there is something deeply wrong about the way Ender was used. To condemn the people who used Ender with a condemnation we feel is fitting to their abuse, we must invent a right that they violated. The right to a normal childhood takes its place among the right to life and the right to choose.