Why we Wear Clothes

by Brian Lande


As I reflected on Montagiane's essay, "Of the Custom of Wearing Clothes", I decided that it was indeed unnatural to wear clothing. After all, 4-500 years ago, in all but the European and Asian countries, people did not wear clothing-or they wore very little, and then only for protection or ceremonies. This is still true in many African and some South American tribes.

However, there are several reasons for wearing clothing. People first began to wear clothing for ceremonial purposes. When a primitive hunting party came back from a hunt, they would wear the skins of their prey on their back to give thanks to their gods for a good hunt. Ceremonial use may, however, may not have been the only reason for wearing clothes. The most logical reason that humans started to wear clothing was for survival. Homo sapiens are relatively fragile and weak for their size, compared to many other mammals. In fact, if we weren't so smart, we would never have survived the Ice Age. The Ice Age is probably when clothing first started to become a major factor in human life. Before this time while humans still resided in Africa, we had no need to develop thick coats of fur as did animals in colder regions of the earth.

Since Africa is a desert and tropical continent and it is unlikely that one would have found a thickly furred animal there. Humans eventually made their way out of Africa by following herds of animals into Europe, Asia and then to the Americas about 100,000 years ago. As our ancestors moved north into cooler regions, our thin skin and hair were not able to adapt to the change in temperature in such a short time so we started making clothing out of animal skins to keep warm.

Predecessors of the Homo Sapiens (humans), such as the Neanderthal man, were already living in the colder regions of Europe and Asia, but they were much larger than Homo Sapiens and most likely evolved with more hair. Still, they, too, may have been using clothing, but there isn't any evidence to prove that theory.

As more and more of the human race made its way out of Africa into colder regions, clothing became mandatory for survival. By the first and second Ice Ages, most humans were living in cold regions of the world and needed clothing to insure survival. The Ice Ages lasted for thousands of years and during that time the wearing of clothing most likely had become a custom. The second Ice Age probably reinforced the wearing of clothing by making it mandatory for survival.

Ten to twenty thousand years ago, after the last Ice Age, humans again began wandering around the planet, spreading the notion of clothing throughout Europe, Asia, the Mid East, and northern Africa, permitting for the custom of clothing to continue up until the present day.

When civilization became firmly established throughout the Old World, many countries still did not wear clothing. It just never occurred to them that it was necessary. Only after the colonization of other countries began, did the custom of clothing spread again.

Clothing first conceived of as ceremonial garb but then became a means of survival for much of the human race. After relying on clothing for long periods of time, it was not easy for humans to give up an ingrained habit and go around naked again. Therefore, humans continued to wear clothing and probably will continue to do so until it becomes a threat to their survival. Personally, I am content to continue life with my clothes on, unless some other reason dictates otherwise.



Negotiating by Speech

by Brian Lande


Negotiating by speech can be far better than negotiating by letter. After all, negotiating with people is hard enough as it is, even with new technologies such as teleconferencing and the World Wide Web. Negotiating in person gives a person the advantage of seeing his counterpart so as to observe his emotions and reactions. The problem with negotiating by letter is that: it takes longer to reach agreement, the receiver's reactions can not be witnessed, and small changes must go back and forth. Therefore it is more efficient and effective to negotiate in person. The advantage of sending a letter though, is that you can not be interrupted!

An example of the need to negotiate in person is when my mother accidentally signed up my brother, Neil, up to be a Bear Scout (3rd grade) instead of Weblos Scout(4th and 5th grade). He was mature enough and old enough to be a Weblos. At first we had to explain to the Cub Master that my brother is Homeschooled and that our grading system worked differently than regular schooling. If my dad had not been there to act as a third man, in person to negotiate with the Cub Master, observe her reactions, and persuade her, my brother would still be stuck in Bear Scouts. A letter would not have been a great catalyst for negotiating with the Cub Master, since this was an entirely new situation that required quick thinking to achieve our ends. Negotiating in person allows one to quickly change what needs to be said.

Another vital aspect of negotiation is making use of a third man who is familiar with the business, culture or foreign government to be worked with. This will add to the advantage of the first party, who must allow and trust his third man to make changes in original plans, and to make agreements. The large amount of power given to the third man requires that he be fully qualified for the job at hand. The third man has to be a quick thinker but also plain. In other words, he can't be sly or dishonest, for then no one would know if he is working for the first party or for his own needs. For instance, the CIA has gotten in trouble when they were found to have secret agendas that met their needs instead of the needs of the government that they were supposed to be working for. This is mostly because they can be incredibly smart, sly, and sometimes dishonest people. They are, therefore, more suited for the job of obtaining intelligence than of serving as negotiators. Basically, the third man needs to follow the orders at hand.

The same person will not be suitable for every type of negotiating. The first party may want to use a kind-spoken man that is good with words for persuasion; a sly or crafty man, such as in the CIA, for observation, inquiry and manipulation; a military man for military negotiations; or a man familiar with economics to conduct trade negotiations. Thus, a military man will not necasserlly do well in trade negotiations. It is also better to have a third man who knows when to back down from negotiations and when to pursue them. He should be eager for his own advancement with the first party rather than be content with the position that he is in. That way he will work hard to please the first party. It is also wise to use the third man regularly, as that builds confidence and security for both himself and the first party.

In general, personal dialogues have more flexability in negotiations than do letters. Advantages occur when there is observation of response between the parties involved. The inclusion of a well qualified third man can be an additional asset for the first party. The subtleties of personal negotiation cannot be accomplished as efficiently by letter as by speech.



Why Do American kids learn so Little?

By Brian Lande


Largely, I agree with Ernest van den Haags essay, "Why American Kids Learn So Little." European children are motivated to learn so that they may have a future without having to rely on their parents' social standing or inheritance. They are unlike American children who are not at all motivated to learn and are unwilling to work hard. They are also, in many cases, unwilling to accept authority or their own limits as youth.

My family is more European in this respect. My parents hold high standards for me and I am expected to meet these standards. Many American families which are either faulty or broken due to divorce, or face other tragedies do not have very high standards for their children. For example, since I am homeschooled, when I am asked to do a report, if the report doesn't meet my parents' expectations, I will need to work on it until it meets their expectations. Many other parents wouldn't waste their time having high standards for their children and would have left the report as it was. This ethic is then discharged into the schools. The children who are held to low standards feel that the minimum is all that is required and all that they are capable of achieving. In classes, teachers have to deal with thirty kids who aren't used to or who are not willing to work hard. Thus the teacher can't have high expectations for his students, seeing that he can not individually help thirty kids in the little time that is allotted to teach. As a consequence, the children don't learn as much in school as their European counterparts who are held to extremely high standards, know what is expected of them and whose parents have high expectations of them.

I agree with Ernest van den Haag that authority is another reason that children aren't learning as much as European students. My parents hold the authority in my house, not me. My parents make rules and I am to follow them, otherwise there will be consequences. The breakdown of the family in America has left many families without authority over their children or it may bounce back and forth and the child will test his authority. That may mean that many parents aren't the ones with the authority, but that the children have taken it by default. One example that I can think of is when my neighbors' daughter bosses her parents' around and they follow all her demands. In fact another one of my neighbors' daughter does the exact same thing, but the daughter's and father's authority clash constantly. In a school, the authority of the teacher and older generation must be excepted if there is to be any learning. For years I used to argue with my music teacher. When he told me that my rhythm was off, I would yell back , NO IT ISN'T! and learn little about rhythm. The youth must accept what teachers say if learning is to be achieved. So what can be done?

A solution to the school problem that Haag mentioned was to break the monopoly of the public schools. He suggested using vouchers to allow parents to pick the school that they want their children to attend, thus encouraging public school competition. This would be a way to help better the schools. Another suggestion of his is that school hours and the load of homework should be increased to the same amount as European Japanese students receive. The fact is that American students on average do an hour more of homework than their Japanese counterparts. Though these suggestions might help, I think they are a minor issue of what really needs to be focused on. Reconstruction of the family and family values is the most important part of bettering Americas education. Parents need to take responsibility for raising their children. When parents come home from work, they are often tired, irritable from work and overburdened with financial problems. Since they are so tired they don't have the energy to deal with crying and complaining kids or to train them to be better people. By far, it is easier to just turn on the television, buy toys for them and take them places. It is only natural that parents want to be liked by their children and so they see training as mean. By giving into the child and being hopelessly nice all the parent's authority is lost and the children are unable to respond to authority from outside the house as well as their parents. It is easy to train and find good teachers, but if the students are unwilling or unable to learn, cannot accept the authority of parents or teachers, and learn to meet higher standards, nothing can as of yet be accomplished to better American education.



"The Essay as a Story"

By Brian Lande


Though "The Adventurer," by Samuel Johnson and "The Whistle," by Benjamin Franklin are both stories, they are also essays. A story can be used to convey an author's idea or point of view and thus qualify as an essay. "The Adventurer" is an essay because a story was used to give the author's point of view on the concept that wide world-view cultural freedoms and constraints can be found in the small world of a stage coach, as well as in foreign counties. The author's other point is that men will take advantage of the ignorance of strangers in order to appear better than they actually are so as to make a favorable first impression. In "The Whistle" Franklin uses a non-fictional story about his childhood as an example of why men should not pay more than necessary for their wants . Both of these stories have a point of view or moral that makes them essays.

In "The Adventurer," Samuel Johnson makes an interesting point about how a man will take advantage of the ignorance of strangers to boost his social standing or superiority above that of the stranger. The dominant reason for this is that there is little danger or shame of the stranger ever finding out the man's past or social standing. If the man were to attempt to pull the same stunt on an associate that was acquainted with his social standing or a man that may become an associate (meaning a friend, employer, etc.), it could either put his job in danger or cause him embarrassment. Once the danger or shame of the knowledge of the man's past and social standing is taken away, the man will take the initiative to better himself by the stranger's ignorance.

The other point Johnson made is that a man will open up when free of social restrictions and act as his true self. He will act as he truly is in the sanctuary of his home where he is free of the restrictions of his job or other people's opinions. Also, he will act as himself when he is comfortable with his surroundings and people, as in the end of "The Adventurer" when the travelers in the stage coach finally reveal their true positions in society once they are comfortable with each other. The quote "England affords a greater variety of characters than the rest of the world" stems from the belief that, since England was a country where men were considered free, they were at liberty to be as they were truly meant to, or wanted to be. Thus, there was a great variety of characters. In countries where men were not free, it was believed that there was not as much of a diverse array of characters. The point was that even in very restrictive societies people still try to act better in front of strangers--not just in free and liberal societies. The moral of this story is that it is best, in the long run, to be who you actually are.

Although "The Adventurer" made a point about the human nature to judge people. "The Whistle" has a moral lesson that many people could apply in their own lives. In recent years, and more than in the past, men have placed money as a first priority over that of family and their personal lives, often now costing them their families and the enjoyment of life. In other words, "they have paid too much for their whistle." Franklin, in his letter to Madame Brillion, uses his folly of paying too much for a whistle as an example to show how people pay too high a cost for fame, money, power and comfort by neglecting themselves, their fortune, their family, and their health as they strive to live in their own paradise. Yet, even as Benjamin Franklin was aware of the tendency of men to pay too high a cost for their petty wants, he himself said that he would fall into the same trap as any other man. "Paying too much for a whistle" is an inevitable trait of humanity but one, (such as hatred, anger, and greed) that once seen, can be avoided.

Though both of these stories are capital, I would have to say that I liked the story from "The Adventurer" the best. The author's observation of men and how they react with strangers is what makes "The Adventurer" is my favorite story. The "Whistle" is too similar to that of the Briar Rabbit stories and not as interesting to me as the more complicated observations of Samuel Johnson which are newer to me and, hence, more interesting.





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