Friday, January 29, 2010

On Watch

One spring I road to Weber State with Herb Patrick and Mr. Smith. As is often the case with Marines, my companions fell to talking about their days of service. I admit I encouraged them; it didn’t take much.

With the humility that truly great men display, Mr. Smith told a simple story. His ship had received a new rescue boat, and it was necessary for the sailors and officers who were to man it to practice its operation and use. They lowered the boat behind the ship and crew members entered the water to simulate the rescue. I pictured them struggling with the unfamiliar equipment, falling into the sea, splashing and diving about the boat, laughing and larking; as I have seen many young men do. It took a long time for the sailors to master their skills, to get the system down, a long time in the sea. Where was Paul Smith, where was our Marine? High above, out of the fun, he was standing guard, rifle in hand, watching for sharks. As I listened to my hero tell his story, I realized that Mr. Smith has never left that deck.

For the past thirty years, he has kept his eye on Layton High, standing ready for the sharks. For twenty five years I have trained and larked in the boisterous sea that is life at Layton High. Long or short, all our service has been the same, we lucky ones, who splash and laugh and learn. All that time, everyday, most often unobserved, Mr. Smith stood watch and shot the sharks. He never sought for glory; but strong and true our hero, our principal, made everything possible.

Mr. Smith, thank you for the long watch, the constant vigilance, the courageous action, and the personal sacrifice that made all the joy, the learning, the teaching, and the living possible; that made Layton High.

In the days of the ancient Roman Lancers, a swordsman who survived the arena and lived long enough to retire, was awarded a symbolic wooden sword, a rudis; given as a token of discharge from service, signifying his release from slavery to freedom.

This is a simple piece of wood, rudely but loving carved by a former Lancer. See it as a symbol, and as a symbol it is worth what it stands for. Let it stand for the years you stood watch, for the accomplishments of the hundreds of teachers and administrators, of the thousands of students. Let it stand for lives improved beyond words by your service, let it stand for our gratitude for all you have given in the years on watch, let it stand for Layton High.

Sunday, January 24, 2010

Some Thoughts on Education

Those who can do, those who can’t teach, and those who can’t teach - teach teachers.

Last Tuesday, January 19th 2010, I attended a training day for high school teachers in Davis County.

In the PowerPoint slide show and movie-clip-fest, billed as a rip-off of late night T V, these claims flashed up onto the screen:

There are 1.3 billion Chinese,

There are .3 billion Americans,

Therefore: there are more honor students in China than there are students in America.

Now how did they make that leap of logic? What data was presented to give any justification in making such a claim? How does one know there are any honor students in China? We surely can’t trust the Chinese on that one, nor do I think we can trust those who make such unreasoned and illogical claims. This bit of tomfoolery illustrates the flaw in putting one’s faith in anything that appears scientific, but which, in truth, is based on irrelevant or intentionally deceptive statistics

This pseudo- scientific approach continued to concern me as I listened to the lecture presented as the Keynote Address by Ako Kambon. Kambon was a great speaker, who delivered an interesting and truly thought provoking sixty minutes talk; what he said so well did indeed get me thinking.

Kambon’s premise was that we (teachers) are dealing with a different student today than what students once were. Referencing a Michigan University study he claimed that the five top influences on students had shifted and changed since the 1950’s. He gave no explanation of the M. U. study or how or on what basis it came to its conclusions. I have found that, in academia, when researchers begin with an assumption, they are usually able to find evidence to support their beliefs. Here are the claims Kambon expected us to accept on faith, faith in M. U.

In the 1950’s, the top five major influences on students were, in descending order of import:






by the 1980’s the order had become:






But then, in the 1990’s, Kambon claimed, there was a major shift. The order of influence became:





with church dropping off the chart, down to number 10.

By the 2000’s, according to M. U., there was nothing left in the top five but media:

Media (influential in this order):

Videos (TV and Games)




Network TV

First, I challenge these claims. I make no claim to any proper scientific study, but then I don’t believe M. U.’s figures were properly gathered either. Let’s use a little reason, which is what scientists are supposed to do. Consider that school and church are examples of peers, and the family is also a place to interact with peers and much more. M. U.’s divisions of society and influence groups are arbitrary at best, and separating the influence of one group from the other impossible.

Second, Time spent using media does not necessarily equate to influence. How does one compare hours staring at a T V, surfing the net, or downloading music, to a few minutes of interaction with someone who loves you, or a week hiking in the mountains with your “church” leaders and friends.

The study seems to assume that students are mindless automatons, into which morals, attitudes, ambitions, and beliefs can be injected by flashy pictures and rap music. Kids are thinking human beings who can reason for themselves, who recognize right and wrong, and for that matter, can discern quality of information, no matter what the quantity.

One is forced to wonder what group of “students” was used to come to the assumptions M. U. grabbed, and how they determined how much influence a given source had on that group.

I provide an anecdotal challenge: When I related the M. U. claims to my seventeen year old, he scoffed at them. His family life is not typical, but he immediately asserted that family was most important to him. He spends a great deal of time listening to his I-Pod, mostly while snowboarding or climbing, (challenging physical activates requiring much time and effort, any such activates were not even mentioned by Kambon’s reference to the M. U. study) but my student does not seem to be unduly influenced by this media. My boy also does his home work and learns well in his classes. He is planning for his future and looking forward to building a life based on meaningful employment and interests that have very little to do with the media.

Also from my experience: I spend all summer ( nine plus weeks each year) surrounded by students who have pretty much forsaken the media to immerse themselves in service to others, building values, forming friendships, and experiencing nature, (again a powerful influence not even mentioned by Kambon).

By this time in Kambon’s lecture, I was already skeptical. However, his descriptions of corporal punishments administered by his parents had kept my attention. He then made his big shift, his call for action.

His turned his lecture to “Things to Know about Media Impact on the Classroom”. Five things that the influence of the Media had wrought on school.

His foundational assertion was that students could not learn by lecture, the foremost method of presenting information in high school. It didn’t seem to faze Kambon that his condemnation of lecturing was being delivered as a lecture. I find this too often to be the case with those who teach teachers. It is, “do as I say, not as I do.”

He led off with some declarations: (There was a PowerPoint, I think.)

1. Students have a shortened attention span.

2. Students are accustomed to being entertained.

3. Students have remote controls in their heads.

4. Students are accustomed to receiving information faster than we are accustomed to give it.

5. Students are now visual learners.

To his assertions I answer:

1. [Short attention spans] Teach students to and give them opportunity to practice developing longer attentions spans. Don’t take them as they are and adjust down to that stage of ability; drag them up to a better and more rewarding level of learning capacity.

2. [Entertaining] Accustom students to accomplishment, to the satisfaction that comes from doing the difficult and growing. Don’t teach down to them, lift them up. Success is better than fun.

3. [Remote control on the brain] Fine, teach students to keep control. Just because they can turn learning on and off at will does not mean they will. Force them to pay attention and keep their “finger” off the switch.

4. [Faster than I can deliver] First, I don’t really know what this means, secondly if it means what I think it does, that students can learn faster than I can teach; I don’t believe it. Nothing in my experience has led me to believe that pacing should be dictated by what students think they want, nor that repetition, drill, and practice are anything by beneficial to students. Ask any of them who are on a successful athletic team, play an instrument, draw, or snowboard.

5. [Visual learners only] Then cure them of this. How sad it will be if students, conditioned by computer, T.V., and movie screens, cannot learn to read a book or listen to a lecture. Why do we allow them to limit their lives based on the power of a bunch of profit driven multinational companies. Free them to learn on their own in any way made available to them.

Some years ago I saw a cartoon movie about a little robot left stranded on earth after all human life had escaped environmental disaster in a space ship. The film, titled Wally, presents a space ship computer that takes over the lives of the humans it was meant to protect by reducing them to fat, lazy, slugs that can do nothing but float from one meal to the next. Mr. Kambon seemed to want the same for our students.

Kambon rushed to his conclusion: Five to-do’s to save our teaching.

1. Give mental breaks.

2. Don’t be boring

3. Realize that our students are either channel surfing of turned off.

4. Use today’s technology to communicate to students.

5. He never got to five – “the bell rang”.

In retrospect, I critique Mr. Kambon’s action steps as follows.

1. [Mental breaks] Rather than giving mental breaks, a good teacher should increase the mental strength of his students so they don’t break down so often.

2. [Boring] Learning to play the violin is boring, learning to draw, or speak Chinese, or do a back flip on the snowboard may well be boring, but the thrill of real accomplishment that comes from doing hard things after tedious, repetitious, yes – even boring work until one is the master, is truly exhilarating. This is a joy that can never be obtained by those who will not pay the price of tedious effort. Let’s help our students overcome boredom by showing them what is beyond, by giving them the pleasure of learning.

3. [Turned off or channel surfing] Accept this fact, but don’t go off the air. Demand they work or fail. Require them to prove they are tuned in, and let them taste the reward of paying attention. Students must learn that they are the ones responsible for learning. The way to success is to help the student to make the right choice of channels based on long term goals not momentary stimulation.

4. [Today’s technology] Sure, use it, but remember this, students love to be read to, and once given the skill, to read. Students love to be told stories, and students love to write and create on their own as well. Just because teachers have new tools in their kits does not mean we should abandon the tried-and-true. Help students to learn that there is no movie, no video game, no cell-phone app, which can surpass their own mind and imagination.

5. [Nothing] This seems to me to be a fitting summary of all the rest of the lecture.

I left the room conflicted, perhaps concerned; I was an unabashed, and therefore perhaps an “evil” lecturer. I wondered if I were a dangerous dinosaur; dooming my students to failure in their contest against the Chinese.

I headed down the long hall to the library to attend my first “break out” session. It was a student panel discussion on Post Secondary Preparation conducted by Teena Carper, one of our school councilors. Ten to twelve students participated; addressing a room full of teachers, and one administrator. Half of these kids were current high school students taking advance placement or college equivalency courses, the other half were recent high school graduates attending local colleges or universities. They spoke to what teachers and high schools needed to do to prepare students.

Teachers must teach skills – especially better note taking and writing skills.

Teachers must have enthusiasm – “Don’t hate what you do”.

Teachers must come to class prepared to teach.

Teachers must be approachable.

Teachers should not give free time – that’s wasting time.

Teachers must provide classes that prepare students for college. Teach students in a college style class which will prepare students for college. Lecture is what “they” do in college, so teach students how to deal with lectures and give them experience with them.

Teachers must require students to write papers.

Teachers must push all students into more challenging classes. By challenging classes these students meant college prep classes, classes where they were expected to work hard and deal with boring and tedious work in order to learn things that will help them succeed in their future lives.

Teachers must not teach “test specific”, rather, teach students how to learn for themselves.

Teachers must take their job seriously so students can.

Teachers must encourage students to know more about what is going on in the world.

Teachers must tell students why they are learning.

Students should be excited to attend because the class is a place for learning, not a push over.

I left the student panel validated; determined to continue to do my best to be a teacher, not an entertainer or media conduit. I wonder how much money Ako Kambon charged the district to deliver his lecture. More than these students or Ms. Carper did I’m sure. I felt they earned more than he. They surely earned my respect. Kambon was entertaining; especially the line about giving kids “time-out” by knocking them out. But then, I probably won’t try that suggestion of his either.

I attended two more sessions, one on drugs in our schools, one on the state retirement program. It is always comforting to contemplate the number of years my students will be supporting me in my next adventure.

All-in-all, it was a very profitable morning. I am glad that I had teachers who taught me to question every lecture. I appreciate Davis School District for going to the trouble to provide quality presenters, and a wealth of information. I have continued to think about the materials given and grown from the mental effort they inspired. I am grateful to Ako Kambon for stimulating my determination to be a better teacher by doubting the things he presented in his truly challenging lecture.

Thursday, January 14, 2010

My View

It was painful to read today’s Standard-Examiner’s editorial attacking Mr. Smith. More than the content, the oft repeated and never substantiated accusations and redundant slurs, I was frustrated by the lack of reason and justice on display in the paper’s view. The Standard may have more readers than the Agora, but that does not mean the paper’s words are reasonable or just.

The editorial begins in a bold print accusation that Mr. “Smith Abused His Office”. What they never do is explain how they came to this leap of logic.


1. Justice demands that a man is innocent until proven guilty – the paper’s first paragraph begins “Even if no criminal charges are filed”, and then opine a condemnation of Mr. Smith for something for which neither they nor anyone else has offered any reasonable proof. How unjust!

2. In the second paragraph, the Standard calls the Russian Club an “egregious example of abuse.” I ask why – to make such an accusation they ought to be able to give some reason. They claim $38,000 dollars is “way too much money for a public school’s incidental use fund.” Before this can be a reasonable claim, they must ask and answer these questions: What makes the Standard Examiner an expert on such funds? What is an appropriate amount of money for such a fund? Tell us for what such money should be used. Ask why it might be needed. What do other schools use their incidental funds, however named, for? The paper should ask how much other schools have stashed away and how they use their monies? Could they suggest a suitable name for a incidental account? I think the State of Utah calls theirs a “Rainy Day fund”; my mother got our family through on “pin money”.

3. The Standard quotes Christopher Williams, the district community relations director, as explaining that “other schools’ discretionary funds are garnered through direct donations or soda and candy machine revenues.” Here are some more questions the Standard could ask: Where did Layton High’s discretionary funds come from? Doesn’t the Standard think it would be fair to look into this before they tacitly excuse every other school for raising money to serve their school’s needs, while condemning Mr. Smith for doing the same thing? How much is in each and every other “discretionary fund” throughout the district? Does the amount determine the level of “abuse of office?” Is it OK to abuse one’s office “a little”? What standard accounting procedures were abused by Mr. Smith? Are the “same ones” abused everywhere else?

The attack on the “Russian Club” needs reasoned support. By asking these questions and finding the answers the Standard could give evidence and reason for their claim, but for now they have done no such thing. Until they do, I, based on twenty-five years of eyewitness experience, choose to accept that the money was a carefully gathered, fully accounted for fund that benefited teaching.

The Standard’s opinion piece makes claims about $4,000 raised from graduation ticket sales. Here are some questions they should ask and answer before they can make any just or reasonable charge:

1. Where did the $4,000 number come from? If the money was never deposited, how did the Standard or the district auditor come up with that number? What is the wording in the audit? Who collected the money? Who was supposed to deposit it? Is there any reasonable explanation for why such a deposit was not made? [I will suggest one – it was put in another account.] The district is capable of questioning those responsible for making the deposit; the district is capable of checking the books to see where the money ended up. The Standard should reasonably and justly ask for and report these facts as part of any truthful presentation.

2. If bonuses were given to anyone, how much were they for? Neither the Standard nor the district audit gives evidence that $4,000 was awarded to anyone. Were records kept of bonuses given? What had the employees done to deserve such so called bonuses? Are bonuses for otherwise uncompensated services proper use of “discretionary” funds? Did those who received the bonuses provide necessary support for the successful graduation ceremony desired by the patrons of Layton High? Do other bosses give their employees bonuses? Do bosses who give bonuses always deserve to be fired?

The Standard gives no reason for claiming any amount of money was misappropriated. The editors need to ask and answer basic questions. That is how truth is obtained and justice done. Printing unsubstantiated claims, even identified as opinion, is unreasonable, unjust, and irresponsible.

Maybe the Standard could ask its readers to imagine what they would do to a boss who gave them a bonus after they had put in many uncompensated hours of service. They did suggest another hypothetical.

Then the Standard makes a claim that rotating principals would somehow solve problems. Perhaps they could give some reason for such a claim based on some supportive evidence or argument.

Having given no evidence that Mr. Smith showed any lack of judgment; the Standard opines that he “placed his personal judgment above the specific school district policy.” They give no substantiated example of such “personal judgment” and cite no “specific district policy. This is unjust; it is an example of wrong!

The editors repeat the unsubstantiated claims, but reiteration is not reason.

They do make passing mention of the many in the community who support Mr. Smith. Reason would tell us that his supporters, the people who work with and for him, know far more about his character and this issue than the paper’s seemingly cursory investigation has provided to them.

The paper is correct in implying that nothing in their attack “outweighs all the positive contributions to the education of our youth that [Mr.] Smith has made during his long career.”

The editorial board ends their view with the claim that this fiasco should serve “as a cautionary tale to public official in similar positions of responsibility.” And indeed it should. We should all be afraid that baseless accusations can be used as weapons against our character. All citizens of a free society should be concerned when their news sources fail to ask any questions, find any facts, or demonstrate any reason in launching an editorial attack on those who remain innocent until they are proven guilty.

I hope the Standard-Examiner will take caution from these arguments, and re-earn the public trust by reasoned and just action.

Tuesday, January 12, 2010

I'm Proud of My Principal

Mr. Smith came back to Layton High just over a week ago. I am sure it was difficult. It’s always hard to come back even from summer break when everyone has been gone together. But to return when everyone else has stayed behind is painful; not knowing how one fits in, wondering what’s being thought and said.

I am aware of the comfort having Mr. Smith presence behind his desk has brought to most at our school. I have received a steady stream of visitors; colleagues, who have never been to my room, stopping by to celebrate the return of our boss. But there came more twisted reports in the newspapers, the release of the audit, and fruitless waiting for the promised support by those who have the public ear and know the truth.

Still, Mr. Smith brought our faculty together last Wednesday, as no one else could, spoke wisely and well, and left the room to a standing ovation of grateful supporters.

The weekend brought more articles in the paper: vague references to possible probes and investigations; unknown, unnamed malcontents sifting again and again through a tiny pile of trash; seeming to work hard to ignore the mountain of good that forty years of service has built. Perhaps, I thought, Mr. Smith is left again to wonder where he stands.

It took courage to be back at his desk yesterday morning, but he was there, and about the school, an example to all who face our own struggles. I don’t know what excellence of character brought Mr. Smith to be the principal at Layton High; but I am sure he has drawn on that reservoir as he has put the bitterness of the few into perspective by the long view of a life of service.

I don’t know what Michael did to become an arch-angel; I don’t know what excellence of character brought him to command the armies that stood against Satan, but the challenges of the last week have reminded me of Milton’s Paradise Lost. Book Six is a play by play of the war in heaven. In one of many battles; armed with God’s own sword; Michael cuts Satan in two:

“. . . but the sword
Of Michael, from the armoury of God,
Was given him temper’d so, that neither keen
Nor solid might resist that edge: it met
The sword of Satan with steep force to smite
Descending, and in half cut sheer; nor stay’d
But with swift wheel reverse, deep ent’ring shar’d
All the right side: then Satan first knew pain,
And writh’d him to and fro convolv’d; so sore
The griding sword with discontinuous wound
Pass’d through him; but th’ethereal substance clos’d
Not long divisible. . .”

Satan’s minions carry his broken body off the field. The next day, the devil is back, stronger than ever; armed with evil artillery:

“ . . . Immediate in a flame,
But soon obscur’d with smoke, all heaven appear’d,
From those deep-throated engines belch’d, whose roar
Embowel’d with outrageous noise the air,
And all her entrails tore, disgorging foul
Their devilish glut . . .”

And Michael goes forth again to face the beast with faith in his ultimate victory.

Long ago I discussed this story with a friend of mine who was serving a mission for his church. He wrote back the lesson he gained from it; explaining that “although evil can never be destroyed, it can always be defeated.”

I see the same example in Mr. Smith’s dedication and willingness to be and serve at Layton High. He continues the support and the example to all that teach and learn there.

Like the guns of the “fallen host”, the newspapers send out their noise and disgorged foulness. A friend of mine, Jeff Curtis, – speaking from the community view point – dealt with the blasts from the press.

The weakness of their presentation, he pointed out, proved they were trying to make something out of nothing. His pointed out that they are not asking the right questions. 1) Where did the money come from? 2) On what was the money spent? 3) Who knew about the funds? 4) Is Layton the only school at which such funds are garnered?

Surely, Jeff argued, being a high school principal must be one of the most difficult jobs in the world; facing the endless agendas of parents, students, teachers, and staff; dealing with the expectations and hungry needs of the district and the demands of the community; doing what is right in an environment rife with conflicting opinions and muddled goals.

This is the job Mr. Smith loves, the job he has done so well for thirty years, the job he did so scores of teachers could teach. And this is the challenge he returns to for the last month of his career, ready, once more to defeat the undestroyable foe. The promises made to Mr. Smith have been unfulfilled, modified, or broken; his determination to go on demonstrates his quality.

Not even Michael faced the Advisory alone. I visited with him for a minute in his office on Monday morning. I wondered if he knew how much support, what strong and determined allies, he has in this fight. I thought about it all day, and late last night, I decided the time had come to go looking for the “host of heaven”.

This morning, with my wife’s help, I made some blue ribbon twists, and headed for the high school. It was my plan to give them to the teachers and staff who supported Mr. Smith. I was nervous. I didn’t know who, or how many, would want to declare themselves in this fight. It didn’t help that the first friend I approached demonstrated some apprehension at wearing his convictions on his shirt. Soon, however, things began to look up. Again and again my question, “would you like to wear a ribbon that says, ‘I’m proud of my principal.’” was answered by an enthusiastic yes. I started out timidly, a few ribbons and pins in my pocket; soon I was giving away my own ribbon and heading back to stock up again and again. By the beginning of class I had run through all the ribbons we had put together. I called home and by lunch I had a fresh supply, many more than my first stash. By the end of the day, my pockets emptied, I had to give my own ribbon away four more times. I heard many positive and heartening things as I approached the great people I work with. I saw their genuine pleasure in supporting Mr. Smith, and listened to their wise and studied defense of his character and gratitude for his leadership and service. My spirits, beaten down by the forces arrayed against the truth, were soaring, buoyed by the sure knowledge that many recognized that truth.

At the end of the day, I stuck my head in Mr. Smith’s office. It was heartening to see our leader, not only at his desk, but with that desk piled with work and chores, service to Layton High.

I hope others will find ways to support Mr. Smith in the days to come. If you need some ribbons come and see me.

Saturday, January 09, 2010

Binding the Book - Very Basic Art Lessons

I should have done a “play-by-play” of building the book. I actually sewed the signatures during the Caesar / Cicero Debate Tournament. Two days of keeping kids quiet and myself busy.

Once the text block was together, we added the endbands to protect the pages and the binding. My daughter Alison did most of the sewing; I cheered her on.

As you can see; I left the back cords long and frayed the fibers. These were pasted onto the binding boards along with the hinges and covered with oak-tag to strengthen the spine and to give a smother flow around the spine.

Once the boards were dried I covered the spine with rather heavy black cloth and the rest of the cover with a textured, brown paper I had found.

I placed a cord along the top of a spine to create a protective ridge. It is probably not practical for a book to be kept on a shelf, but seems to be a good idea for a table top book.

Here are some inside views

Placing the ear and the muscles of the face.

Hands – front and back.

Wednesday, January 06, 2010

To a Marine

I feel that the hardest thing a teacher must do is see the students they have sought to serve go off to war. I received an e-mail from a Marine. I present it here, along with my answer, for your consideration. This hero reminds me of the frightening responsibility of being a teacher. I pray I can be worthy of such a position of trust.

“ Hi Mr. C. In case you don't remember me, I use to be a student in your class back in 2005/2006. I joined the Marines a couple months after graduation. I used to stop by sometimes to have small talks with you. Anyway, the purpose for this quick brief message is that I deploy to Afghanistan in March. And I wanted to know your personal opinion on the war. Do you think it is going to be won? Maybe lost? Or maybe stay a stalemate? After deploying to Iraq and seeing with my own eyes a conflict that has been won where many people said it wouldn't, I think "with time," Operation Enduring Freedom could end up a success. But I need a professional opinion like your own, instead of a truck drivers opinion like myself.”

Dear Marine,

I write with the greatest respect and gratitude. Thank you for your service in Iraq, and now the great price you pay for my freedom and the safety of all those I love. I pray for your safety and success. Please take care of yourself.

I have thought long and hard about your questions. I am humbled and a bit apprehensive in addressing you. You are the one whose experience and sacrifice have earned you the right to address this topic. Still, I will do my best to give you my opinion.

The first thing I want to say, something I am quite sure you know, is that our greatest allies in this struggle are Muslims. It is painful to observe the suffering that many must endure; Iraqis, Afghans, Pakistanis, and many others whose precious lives are lost on the very brink of happiness and success; sacrificing so much that their peoples, their families, and their religion can be free of fanaticism, hate, and fear.

You ask my opinion on the war in Afghanistan. I see it as an important part of a much greater clash between reason and ignorance. The study of history reveals how evil men feed their lust for power by exploiting ignorance and the superstition and hate it brings. We see this in the invading hordes that have swept the world since ancient times, we witness it again in the race driven exploitation of 18th and 19th century imperialism, we are brought face to face with it in an examination of the abominations of Nazism, and finally we experienced it in the compounded genocides, mass murders, and near global destruction, perpetrated in the effort to establish world wide communism.

All these evils were in the end defeated by reason. Civilization has, for the most part, stayed the tide of barbarian invasions; racism as justification for slavery and rapacious exploitation is discredited by all thinking people; Nazism has become a caricature of evil and communism a laughingstock. But it must be remembered that in all these cases it took the sacrifice of soldiers to make it possible for reason to prevail. I was impressed with President Obama’s speech at the Noble Awards in which he said, “A non-violent movement could not have halted Hitler’s armies. Negotiations cannot convince al Qaeda’s leaders to lay down their arms.”

I agree with President Obama. Only the Marines can provide the space for reason. There are two kinds of war – just and unjust. One does not consider the gun of a police officer, acting in the defense of innocence, as equivalent to the weapon of a murderer.

You asked me if I think the war will be won – I do, I believe that the right will prevail. I believe that men are by nature good, and when they are given the chance to think straight, they will reject the rancor of fanaticism. But it will not be easy, and your service is of infinite worth. Without the security you and your fellows provide, ignorance will grow and once more threaten to engulf the world. Please hold on.

Could the war “maybe be lost”? Yes, if America falters in its resolve to hold back those who would drown, in ignorance, the light of reason and truth. I fear those, safe within the borders of America, who seek their own power, preying upon the ignorance of our own people. If the people are not taught the reason for the fight, they may well abandon it, spurred on by the false promise of peace employed by those who seek to dominate.

Maybe a stalemate? I do not think so. The enemies of truth and the reason it enables will not stop until they have won. This is a win or lose cause for right or for wrong. Ignorance will be destroyed or it will cover the world.

I have faith in the human soul, in man’s inborn love of truth, and his divine capacity to reason. I also know that only those with the courage and self-sacrificing charity to defend the right can give space for knowledge to be.

These are my opinions. This I know: I respect and appreciate you, you are my hero.

Thank you,