Category Archives: From Mr. MacKnight

Limit the scope!

1st premise:

  • It is impossible to analyze the entire [fill in the blank] in 80 minutes.

2nd premise:

  • Spending more than 80 minutes on a single night’s homework assignment is a kind of masochistic self-abuse, and is unsustainable.


  • Therefore, you must limit the scope of your analysis!

Comments on your “Democracy” posts

Amy: “Democracy has disappointed me, because the people have disappointed me.”

The men who designed the U.S. Constitution were acutely aware of the flaws in human nature, and tried to design a system that would mitigate those flaws. In the end, however, no system can be foolproof. As he left the Constitutional Convention, Benjamin Franklin was asked by a woman in the crowd, “Well, Doctor, what have we got—a Republic or a Monarchy?”. Franklin replied: “A Republic, if you can keep it.”

Tia: “. . . minorities have a hard time being considered and taken into account when it is always the majority that always wins.”

This raises a perennial problem for any democratic system: how are the rights of minorities protected? To put the question another way: How can we prevent a democracy from being a “tyranny of the majority”?

William: “Every human should be seen as equal . . . . Democracy is truly never going to be accomplished if we don’t have equality for every living soul.”

Clearly the word “equality” in such assertions does not mean that every human must measure exactly 175cm tall, or that every person has equal talents as a musician, dancer, athlete, or mathematician. What, then, exactly, do we mean by the word “equality” in these assertions?

Cecilia: Democracy “functions best in an elite country of few citizens, where the people are willing to take responsibility for their logical decisions.”

Is democracy a system that works only in a small community, and breaks down in larger political bodies like a modern nation-state? Is it even possible to have democratic government in a nation of millions of people, most of whom have never even seen each other in person? Does modern information technology offer a way to overcome the problems of “scaling up” a democracy?

Trevor: “. . . there is no such thing as freedom, and no such thing as democracy . . . .”

Such outcries of dissatisfaction come, usually, from people who enjoy large measures of freedom and democracy but are disappointed with the end results. People who have been systematically deprived of their civil and human rights, however, or people who have never had a chance to vote for their leaders, have repeatedly risked their lives to obtain “freedom” and “democracy.” To such people, these words are much more than empty concepts. Are such people foolish to put their lives at risk for civil rights and a democratic government?