Sunday, March 23, 2014

FOMO?




I just learned about FOMO awhile back, not to be confused with MOFO, which is a whole other thing that we won’t go into.  The Fear Of Missing Out is apparently a Big Thing, and for those of you who are out of it like me, it refers to the need to be constantly connected with the world, primarily by Smart phones.  It explains, among other things, why a recent survey of Millenials (those born between about 1982 and 2000) showed that on average, they become uncomfortable after 2 to 3 minutes of not checking their phones for new messages.  Two to three minutes!

It also explains behavior such as high school students constantly wanting to check their cells in class.  And people sitting at a restaurant table, all on their phones instead of interacting with one another.  And then the classic “zombie walk” that we see all the time: People walking down the street, just staring at their phones instead of where they’re going.  Or the “zombie stare”, where people are standing or sitting somewhere, just staring at their phones incessantly, waiting for something to appear.  At staff meetings, there are teachers who just sit there texting on their phones or surfing the Net or whatever the whole time – very rude behavior, in my opinion.  And I doubt it’s just teachers who do that.

 Why?  What could possibly be so important that people have to constantly – CONSTANTLY – see what’s going on with their friends, what’s “trending”, what the latest tweets are?  Why can’t they wait until the evening, or at least until the end of class, the end of their dinner date, until they sit down on the bus, etc?  

One supposes that the “why” is that they’re afraid of missing out – on something or other.  But God knows why.  Why are we so afraid of missing out on stuff that, just a few years ago, either didn’t exist or people didn’t really care much about?  Maybe that’s the part (the Grumpy Old Man part) I don’t understand; maybe people have always cared deeply about all the miniscule trivia that makes up much of people’s tweets and texts and whatnot these days, but until recently they never had the means to access it. 

 Hey – what’re you doing?”  Nothing, just nothing.”  Cool; me too.  TTYL.  I’ve always suspected that something like half of all texts are something like that, with no more than 10 or 20% actually dealing with something that matters.  But maybe those mindless interconnections between people serve some greater social good.  I dunno; like I said, I’m out of it.  

But further, why do more and more of us feel the need to be constantly bombarded by digital stimuli?  I mean, people walking around with ear buds in, oblivious to those talking to them, staring at their phones, playing Angry Birds – almost constantly plugged into some electronic device or another instead of, I don’t know – observing the world around them?  Listening to their own thoughts?  Reflecting?  You know, the kind of things that make people better people and the world a better place?  So besides perplexing me (this constantly being plugged in to a world of artificial and/or trivial stimuli), it also worries me.  

Then there’s the really dangerous part of this troubling trend, exemplified by people texting while driving.  We’ve all heard about the car and train accidents caused this way.  And the other day there was a horribly sad story about a 16-year old local boy who was killed when the minivan he was driving crossed into the lane of an oncoming truck.  He must’ve been killed instantly; the van was totally demolished.  It was terrible.  The police are still investigating, but speculate that he was distracted by something.  Wanna bet it was his phone?  Maybe I'm wrong, but wanna bet he was texting?  Maybe not, but just the day before, this same kid had been in an accident, rear-ending the car in front of him.  Wanna bet what caused that?
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My wife told me the other day that it might be time for me to get a Smart phone.  Yes, I’m one of the 3% of the developed world that doesn’t have one.  She said there are now simpler models to use, with bigger keys, and cheaper monthly plans.  I thought about it for a moment, and then said: I don’t think so, why would I want one?  My lovely wife replied that I’m just being stubborn and resisting change.  But really, as she and I talked more about it, what would I do with a Smart phone?

There’s nobody I need to call or text 2 or 3 or 100 times a day (it’s true: I have no life).  I spend an average of maybe 3 minutes a day on the phone; many days, I never use a phone at all.  I do have a cell phone, but rarely use it.  Most of the time, it stays in my truck, in case there’s a reason I need to call someone while on the road.  Doesn’t get much use…

I absolutely love the Internet, and use it a few hours each day – for checking the surf, for investment purposes, planning hunting trips, working on school stuff, shopping online, social media, e-mail, and much of the other stuff that everyone else does online.  But I don’t need to be able to do that anytime, anyplace.  Seriously.  I’m perfectly fine with an online session or two on my PC or laptop in the morning, another one or two in the afternoon, another one or two in the evening.  I’m not a Luddite, CRS; it’s just that I have no need or even use for the immediacy that Smart phones offer. 

Back in the olden days (the early-90s), important people had pagers that let them know when someone was trying to get a hold of them.  Doctors, realtors, bail bondsmen, drug dealers, people like that.  They NEEDED to be connected 24/7.  That morphed into cell phones, where people could actually call one another 24/7, any place.  Again – great idea for some people, but merely a toy for most others.  

I remember about a dozen years ago, by which time many people had cell phones.  My wife and I were driving to a wedding with one of her sisters in the car.  Behind us on the Interstate were a couple of other family members in another car.  Every few minutes, my sister-in-law (who’s ALWAYS on her phone) would get a call from her sister in the other car.  Hey – where are you now?  Oh, yeah?  Well we’re just a mile or so behind you!  Over and over again.  Why?  Boredom, new toy, small minds – you choose. 
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So I hope that this trend, this fad of being constantly and instantly connected, gets old with time and that at some point, perhaps many years down the road people go:  What the frick?  What were we thinking about with all that mindless, non-stop talking and texting and tweeting?   

But then again, for decades I’ve been hoping that guys would figure out that caps are supposed to be worn with the brim in front, that there’s no good reason for a white guy to shave his head (except for Mr. Clean), that guys who wear their pants with the waist down around their knees just look (sorry, there’s no other way to say it) retarded, and that both guys and gals with tattoos all over their bodies are morons.  So far none of those has happened yet, and with only another couple of decades left of expected life on this Earth, I may not live long enough to see any of them.  

JSS,  March 2014

Monday, September 2, 2013

Happy Labor Day!




According to the U.S. Department of Labor, Labor Day was officially created in 1894 and is “dedicated to the social and economic achievements of American workers.”  Working conditions a dozen decades ago were intolerable by today’s standards, and there wasn’t a lot that workers themselves could do in the vastly unequal equation between businesses and labor.  But huge strides for America’s workers in the succeeding years make me wonder how relevant Labor Day is in these times.  Mostly, its value just seems to lie in marking the unofficial end of summer and giving us yet one more three-day weekend.
I’m not sad to see summer go.  San Diego has joined the rest of the country in a series of hot, humid days that remind me of why I’m happy to live in a place where such an occurrence is a rarity rather than the norm.  And the investments world has lived up to the old saw of “sell in May, buy back on Labor Day”, with the Dow down some 500 points since Memorial Day – the unofficial start of summer.  Meanwhile, silver’s a bit higher since May, but gold and the mining shares – despite lots of interim movement – are right back where they started.  Yeah, why didn’t I just sell everything 3 months ago and forget about them over the summer?
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In honor of the holiday, fast food workers are demanding $15/hour, about double what most make now.  Classic economic analysis tells us that doubling their wages should result in some combination of higher fast-food prices and fewer burger flippers – not such a good outcome.  Numerous studies question that conventional analysis, however, implying that raising the minimum wage would benefit low-income workers without really hurting the rest of us.  Whether that’s true or not, I still don’t have a lot of sympathy for those working entry-level jobs that don’t pay enough to live on.
Look – most of us started out working at those kinds of crappy jobs.  The point wasn’t to support a family.  It was to make a few bucks while learning some workplace skills; a first, necessary step up the ladder, rather than an end in itself.  And to give you a wake-up call; figure out a better way to make a living!   If you’re well into your 20s or older, and you’re stuck at Mickey D’s or KFC, chances are you didn’t have much of a game plan when you were in school.  I see it all the time: kids with tons of potential, but not putting in the effort.  Or going on to college, but majoring in something that “speaks to them”, rather than something that society values – as evidenced by decent-paying jobs.  So they’re stuck with only a U.S. high-school diploma which, if you didn’t know this, is seen by the rest of the world as not worth the paper it’s printed on, or a college degree that’s worth not a helluva lot more.    
Surely there are many people stuck in minimum-wage jobs for reasons beyond their control, but I think they are more the exception rather than the rule. For the rest – for the majority – I don’t know why we should guarantee them a “living wage”, basically rewarding them for making poor choices.  This is part of the cult of entitlement that so many Americans, especially younger ones, have embraced.  It basically says: “Enjoy life!  Do whatever you want, and don’t worry.  You’re an American, so somebody will take care of you no matter what. 
What if, on the other hand, the message to young people was: “If you want a good life, you need to – YOU MUST – really apply yourself.  Otherwise, your life is going to be really tough.  It kind of reminds me of the claim that most of us only use something like 10% of our brains (very high achievers, people with ESP, etc. apparently use more of theirs).  In the classroom, most students don’t work to their full potential.  They put in, on average, perhaps half the effort they’re capable of because – well, because of the “you’re an American, your life will be good regardless” idea.   As an experienced classroom teacher, even in a very high-performing school, I see this all the time; kids turning in crap, kids not studying when they know they should, not doing assignments that they could easily do, and so on.    
Now I don’t think that was the case 40 or 50 years ago, and I don’t think that’s the case in most of the rest of the world.  I think that earlier, and elsewhere, kids worked and work harder because they knew they’d be screwed otherwise.  It’s cause and effect.  We’ve had 20, 30, 40 years of good times in the U.S. – even during the Great Recession of 2008-2011, how many people didn’t have a place to sleep, food to eat, and unlimited texting on their iPhones?  As a result, trying to tell kids about the necessity of actually doing their best, rather than just whatever they feel like doing, simply doesn’t register with them.  Meanwhile, in most of the world – it does.  Not surprisingly, that’s where many of the high-paying jobs have gone, leaving fast-food and WalMart jobs as the only option for so many Americans. 
So good luck on the $15/hour thing.  I rarely buy that horrid, unhealthy food anyway, so it’s no skin off my nose.  But I won’t feel sorry for them if they don’t get it either.
JSS
9/2/2013

Thursday, January 10, 2013

BIG CORPORATIONS HAVE RUINED AMERICA

We hear it so often: Big corporations determine, through their massive financial and political power, virtually everything the government does or does not do.  As a result, the rich only get richer while the majority of us are progressively worse off, true democracy in America is a chimera, and our country as the “City on the Hill” is but a memory of either what once was or could have been, depending on your politics.

Because of the power the big banks and other greedy corporations wield, millions of hard-working Americans cannot find a job, millions have lost their homes, and even more millions can’t afford health care.  All of this against a backdrop of record multi-billion dollar profits for the corporations, with compensation for top executives running into the tens of millions annually, in no small part made possible by government subsidies and bailouts.  Just this week, $27 million – minimum guaranteed - over three years for a Padres player I’ve never even heard of.  (Yep, pro sports in America is nothing if not Big Business). 

Big Business defeats legislative changes that would give us healthier food, more fuel efficient cars, affordable health care, fewer Columbines and Auroras, and a decent living wage.  It promotes income inequality and social division, crass materialism, and devalues true art for art’s sake.  Big corporations have ruined America, and most of us – the little guys and gals – are merely powerless pawns, manipulated for their greater aggrandizement.

Sort of. 

Big corporations DO have way too much power over America and its people, and their endless search for greater earnings, at almost any cost, disgusts me.  But I disagree with the implicit message that commonly follows this type of thinking:  That (1) it’s the corporations’ fault (not ours), and that (2) there’s not much the little guy can do about it. 

Look – businesses exist to make profits, and they do so by convincing us to give them their money.  It’s OUR job to be careful with our money, to say “No!” to business more often than not.  I have a big problem accepting that it is our lot in life to pay $200 a month so we can chat and text endlessly on our cell phones day and night.  I reject the premise that somebody forced Americans to buy bigger, more expensive cars and houses than they need or can afford.  I call bullshit on the claim that people don’t have time to fix a decent cup of coffee in the morning or to cook, and therefore they’re forced to spend $4 on a Starbucks Vente Mocha each morning and eat fast food crap for lunch and dinner.  I don’t understand why they have to buy designer jeans or handbags or polo shirts and whatnot at prices 2 or 3 or 10 times higher than what a perfectly serviceable generic substitute would cost.  I say it’s just plain stupid that the average American household has zero savings and an average $16,000 in credit card debt, as a result of decisions such as these. 

How in the hell did Americans get so gullible, so ignorant?  When and why did we abrogate our responsibility to spend wisely, to say “No!” to spending decisions that people 50 years ago would never dreamed of making, to limit corporations’ ability to take advantage of us? 

Decisions like those have played a key role in allowing Big Business to become so powerful.  Verizon and Cadillac and Starbucks and Donald Trump and Nordstroms and McDonalds wouldn’t be nearly so large, not nearly so powerful, if we hadn’t voluntarily opened our wallets and invited them to take whatever they want.  Even on the lower end, WalMart – the world’s largest corporation – has prospered not by selling us higher-quality (and priced) goods than we need, but have become immensely powerful by selling us a greater quantity of goods than what we really need.  So it’s our endless search for more and better controlling us that has given power and money to Big Business.

This is not to give the businesses themselves – and our political leaders – a pass.  Shameless advertising tactics that appeal to our baser emotions have been perfected over the years.  Predatory business practices have similarly been improved, to great effect.  Investors have focused more and more on short-term profits rather than ethical actions and long-term value. Meanwhile, governments on all levels have allowed big corporations to flourish via a number of active means: subsidies, bailouts, bribes, waivers, as well as passively by failing to pass and enforce legislation that might better control business excesses. 

But the buck stops, or should stop, with the individual – with us.  We’re the ones who should and can have the power.  Not in every case, of course, but to a great enough degree to not be mere pawns, jerked around by the corporations.  Why aren’t we the ones who are jerking them around?  This takes us to my second main point of the essay.

Putting it into a first-person perspective, my wife and I are regular old, middle-class folks.  We don’t come from a privileged background; never had high-paying jobs (OK – there were a few pretty good years when we had business careers a long time ago).  Yet as people of modest means, we live really good lives.  And we don’t feel at all like Big Business’s helpless bitches.  In fact, we take advantage of what the big corporations offer, so it’s more like we're the boss of them.  I realize that what follows is going to sound like bragging, but it’s the way to make a point, so bear with me.

Our 3-bedroom house in a decent neighborhood will be paid off in 3 years.  We both own vehicles made in 2012; both cost only about $20,000 but are great cars.  There's nobody we need to impress by driving a $50,000 Lexus or Escalade.  We play (and win) the car dealers’ own weekend ad game every time we buy, and we get sweet deals as a result.  One car is paid off, we owe about half on the other one. 

I love hunting, fishing, and surfing, so I own over a dozen nice guns, about 15 fishing rods/reels, and half a dozen boards; something for every type of hunting, fishing, surfing.  Plus all the necessary gear to go along with those things.  They’re $600 guns with $200 scopes, though, not $2500 guns with $1000 glass; $250 rods/reels, not $700 ones.  I make the boards myself for $250-$300, rather than spend $600-$1500 for them.  But they all look good and work just fine; just as good as the big ticket guns/poles/boards. I go on one or two out of state hunting trips and a few tuna fishing trips each year, along with occasional salmon or trout fishing trips and surfing just about every weekend (neck problems permitting).

Apart from those trips, though, we enjoy traveling, so each year we go to Europe or Asia or Hawaii or whatever for a few weeks.  We usually fly Business or First class, paying little for airfare and for about half of our hotel rooms, using frequent flier miles to get those.  The miles come from paying for virtually everything on credit cards, which cost us basically nothing since we pay off our entire bill each month.  Thank you airlines, hotel chains, big banks, and credit card companies!

We both enjoy good food, so we both cook: chicken, ribs, seafood, Mexican, Chinese, Italian, whatever.  Almost everything is made from scratch, using natural, raw ingredients.  Following doctor’s orders, we usually have a glass of red wine with dinner; often as not, “2 buck Chuck”.  We used to be big wine snobs, but not anymore; we just can’t tell much difference between Chuck and a $30 bottle.  We rarely eat out, not only because the cost is ridiculous, but because the food usually just isn’t better than what we fix at home.  Morning coffee comes from a can of Yuban and a pint of half-and-half at home, not from a trip to Starbucks or 7-11.  We eat VERY well, and in ways that don’t add much to corporate bottom lines.

My jeans come from WalMart or K-Fart, and cost $10 or $12, or from thrift stores and garage sales, which is where my wife buys a lot of my shirts for $2 or $3.  Ditto for her clothes; when she was in the business world, most of her $200-$300 suits were from those places and cost $20 or $30.  But you couldn’t tell; they looked professional and good as new.      

We’ve got 2 flat-screen TVs, a good sound system, 3 laptops and 1 desktop computers, nice artwork around the house, a 3-piece leather sofa set, an antique oak dining table and China cabinet – you get the idea.

And almost no debt.  In fact, other than 3 years of remaining house payments and about $10,000 on one car, we have no debt whatsoever.  What we do have though, are healthy savings accounts, along with even healthier personal retirement accounts.  If either of us were to die, if I were to lose my job tomorrow, if I never got a dime from my pension or Social Security – our lives wouldn’t change much financially. 

We’ve been lucky.  Despite family tragedies and some bad career moves, we haven’t had any financial, health, or legal disasters – thank God.  But mostly – mostly we’re in the rather comfortable situation we’re in because (geez, how do I say this tactfully?) we’re not f#@*ing idiots.  We didn’t spend more than we earned, we didn’t fall for all the marketing hype, we didn’t care much about keeping up with the Joneses or impressing the Smiths, and we saw the corporate world as worthy adversaries, capable of benefiting us if approached wisely.  Please understand - I'm happy, even proud - to be in this situation.  But the point is not to brag, but to show how one has a choice, how a regular person doesn't need to be a pawn at the mercy of big business.  If we could do it, so can most other Americans.

So I reject the “poor me!” mentality that says the big corporations run the world and the little guy can’t get ahead.  Maybe they run it and maybe they don’t; if they do, then the typical American and their foolish decisions over the last four decades are a big part of why that’s the case.  But it almost doesn’t matter as far as I’m concerned.  I can’t do much about the international implications of our military-industrial complex - granted.  Big corporations CAN have more power and influence than we'd like in some cases.  In my little corner of the world though, we’ve managed to eke out a sweet life in spite of, because of, or whatever of, Big Business.  And that’s not so bad.

Monday, December 31, 2012

THE BELL CURVE OF POLITICS



My politics are pretty moderate for the most part; the half-joking way I describe myself politically is “excessively centrist”.  My friends and others who are liberal, left-leaning are convinced I’m a heartless right-winger, while conservative, right-leaning friends and enemies alike are certain that I’m a bleeding-heart communist.  Taken together, that tells me that I’m about in the right spot – somewhere in the center of all the extreme right/left madness.

But if you think about it, there’s an implicit thesis here:  The best position on most social and political issues lies somewhere in the middle, between what the far right and the far left believe.  Furthermore, the closer one’s position is to dead center, the more likely it is to be correct or wise or whatever.  Folks on the right and the left alike surely don’t believe that is the case, but the more you think about it, the more sense it makes.  Here’s why.

An important “given” in evaluating any issue is to consider all sides before deciding where you stand on it.  Be it evolution vs. creationism, raising taxes vs. cutting government spending, loosening vs. tightening restrictions on illegal immigrants, or just about anything else – one cannot come up with an intelligent opinion without considering the arguments on each side.  If you believe otherwise, then read no further, because this is a bedrock assumption that underlies logical decision making, as well as the rest of this essay.

Let’s use the idea of stronger gun control as an example for this discussion.  If one says that much harsher gun laws are a necessity and that there is no room for compromise, then that implies that the gun rights crowd is either ignorant or illogical.  And vice-verse: the Second Amendment fanatics who won’t even consider more restrictions on gun ownership must implicitly see the other side as being misinformed and/or just plain stupid.  Now of course, either side could be right, but what are the chances? 

To figure that out, let’s expand this issue just a bit to talk about Democrats and Republicans in the U.S.  Since most Democrats favor stricter gun control while most Republicans do not, this isn’t much of a stretch; nevertheless, I am tweaking the conversation a bit here.  But at any rate, the question now is:  How smart and how educated are Democrats compared to Republicans?  Because if one group or the other really is uninformed and/or .... a bit slow, then that would justify ignoring their views and sticking with the opposite, extreme view.  But if they’re not, well, that suggests something entirely different. 

As someone in academia, the consensus view I get is that Democrats are, as a whole, more intelligent and also better educated than Republicans.  I suspect there’s something to that, but probably not as much as academicians, who tend to be Democrats themselves, believe.  A quick scan of Internet websites and articles on the topic seems to suggest that the average intelligence levels of Democrats and Republicans are about equal (such as http://anepigone.blogspot.com/2008/11/politics-and-iq-conservative-democrats.html ).  Similarly, Democrats and Republicans have about the same overall levels of education, except in the category of post-graduate university study, where Democrats have a pretty big edge: 58% of voters vs. only 40% for the Republicans (http://www.cnn.com/ELECTION/2008/results/polls/#USP00p1)

To be honest, though, I have mixed feelings about folks with graduate degrees and those who operate in academia (teachers and professors).  On the one hand, they are more likely to be knowledgeable about a variety of topics than someone without an advanced education.  But on the other hand, high schools and universities are notoriously skewed towards liberal views in most parts of the country.  So the knowledge one gains in school is likely to have been presented in a biased (liberal) manner.  I haven’t confirmed this claim through research and data, but suspect that there's sparse evidence otherwise.    

An example of this liberal bias in schools is Howard Zinn’s popular A People’s History of the United States, which several of my colleagues use in their history classes.  This book is widely acknowledged for its  extreme leftist bias, and George Mason University's History News Network recently named it the second least credible American history book .  It missed getting first place by just a small margin to Jefferson's Lies: Exposing the Myths You've Always Believed about Thomas Jefferson, by the way, as biased on the right as Zinn’s book is on the left.  (http://www.theatlantic.com/national/archive/2012/07/lies-the-debunkers-told-me-how-bad-history-books-win-us-over/260251/)  While A People's History is noteworthy for its groundbreaking work in social history and willingness to look at the darker side of our nation's history, few objective historians believe A People’s History should be taken as a realistic view of our history; it's too deeply flawed by its non-stop bias.  Yet I don’t think my esteemed colleagues and most of the thousands of other teachers/professors who assign the book present Zinn as an example of a biased, far-left author (he was, in fact, an ardent Marxist), but instead give students the idea that his book is really telling it like it is. 

This connects to the other concern about those in academia:  Most teachers/professors have little “real world” experience, having gone directly from high school to university to teaching, without the benefit of a career outside of academia.  As such, their views tend towards the ivory tower, theoretical variety, not tempered by the realities that often conflict with knowledge found in books and from professors.   

As a result (of liberal bias and often the disconnect from the real world found in schools) many students leave high school and college with a distorted view of American history, among other topics. Overall then, I think that being better educated is a good thing, but may also carry with it some negative baggage. 

But back to the greater point.  Whether liberals are smarter or better educated as a whole than conservatives, the fact remains that there are a great many intelligent and well-educated people in both of our two main political parties.  According to the Gallup group in 2011, 31% of Americans were Democrats and 29% were Republicans (the rest were independents).  Other estimates show much the same picture: there are about as many Democrats as there are Republicans in the U.S.  That means there are millions of each, and out of those millions, surely there are many thousands of Democrats and many thousands of Republicans who are more intelligent and better educated than either you or me. 

Certainly some of those Republicans are only out to "protect the rich and keep minorities down", while some of the Democrats are "communists who want to destroy the America we love", as members of those parties are quick to characterize their adversaries.  But apart from being rude stereotypes, those kinds of characterizations have the added disadvantage of being largely inaccurate, as most Democrats and most Republicans are decent people who only want the best for all Americans.  And if those things are true, i.e. both parties have highly-educated, intelligent people who want what's best for the country, then we are led to conclude that there must be valid, well-thought out reasons for supporting both liberal (Democratic) views and conservative (Republican) views.  This, in turn, suggests that extreme leftist or extreme rightist views fail to acknowledge (or are perhaps unaware of) the merits of other points of view, and are therefore unlikely to be correct or wise – to give the best answer, as it were. 

That reality reminds me of the Bell Curve often used in assigning test grades.  In curving grades, a few people are going to get A’s and F’s, more people are going to get B’s and D’s, and the biggest chunk will get C’s.  Probability wise, then, the further we are from the center (a middle C), then the less likely one is to get that particular grade. 

I think it’s the same with political opinions.  It’s certainly possible that a very far-right or far-left view is correct on a particular issue, but the odds are against it.  That would require that all of those intelligent, educated people on the other side are totally wrong, or do not have the country's best interests at heart.  Again – that is possible, but not likely. 

On the other hand, as we move more to the center from the extremes, we can accept the validity of what each side sees.  Liberals may be looking at different facts than conservatives, or simply interpreting them differently.  The centrist view basically says: “Look, you make some good points and so do the other guys, and the best answer is likely to be one that recognizes this fact."  Then it just comes down to how much each of us values the merits of the various points.  You see more merit in the conservative views, so you’re a conservative-centrist, while I see more merit in the liberal views, so I’m a liberal-centrist.  But we’re not so far apart, and we can function effectively and civilly this way.

That’s what is so sorely lacking in the U.S. these days – effective functioning and civility in politics, based on the ability to see all sides and find common ground.  Accordingly, that’s what I’m going to continue teaching in my classes: The most sensible understanding or opinion is likely to be somewhere in the middle, the one that acknowledges valid points from various perspectives.  Students who insist that their far-right or far-left views are the only possible answer have the right to do so, but they are going to be continually challenged in my classroom to show how that can be.  And to whatever degree that strategy mitigates the liberal bias they find in their other classes, well - that is as it should be.