At a basic level, are humans chasing wants but neglecting essential needs like health, a sense of belonging, a feeling that we are respected, trust, purpose, meaning? As our current era comes to a close, will we return instinctively to what really matters?

Those are some core issues tackled on the Lean to the Left podcast by David Wann, an author, filmmaker, and speaker who is passionate about sustainable lifestyles and designs.

He was a founder of the cooperative ("Cohousing") neighborhood where he's lived and gardened for 26 years. He's a proud husband and father who has recently adopted the title of "apocaloptimist." He knows how deep we're in but thinks we might make another evolutionary leap.

In his first novel, "Tickling the Bear: How to Stay Safe in the Universe," David draws upon his experience as an organic gardener, founder of a co-housing community, and amateur musician to create credible characters who navigate a threatened world and find acceptance and clarity on how to live with gratitude.

Altogether, David has written 10 books, including “Affluenza,” now in nine languages, which was followed by “Simple Prosperity”. A third book in the trilogy about creating a more sensible way of life is “The New Normal,” which presents 33 high-leverage actions that can shift our culture in a more sustainable direction.”

David also has produced 20 videos and TV programs, including the award-winning TV documentary “Designing a Great Neighborhood,” about the Holiday neighborhood in Boulder, Colorado. He worked for more than a decade as a policy analyst for the U.S. EPA and co-designed the cohousing neighborhood where he lives, in Golden, CO.

Show Notes

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Remember, our goal is to be informative and entertaining as we comment on the latest developments in the news…you guessed it…with just a little lean to the left.

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Show Transcript

[00:01:00] John Yearwood: today. Thank you, Bob. It's a real pleasure for me. John, tell 

[00:01:06] Bob Gatty: us a little bit about Jar of Pennies and how it relates to our topic. 

[00:01:13] John Yearwood: Jar of Pennies tells a story of a, series of apparently gruesome murders that occur in east Texas in the early early eighties, late seventies, early eighties.

[00:01:28] And as, it turns out, all of the murders are linked back to a single individual. Although while he is charged with all of them, he didn't actually commit all of them. So that's an interesting side note, but it is based on a true story. So it's a novel, right? 

[00:01:47] It's a novel, yes. Yeah. Yes. Okay. It's, and it's fiction, yeah. 

[00:01:52] But it, but I, refer to this true story as the rib from which I, built the rest of the, rest of the novel. Okay. And the true story was man broke into his neighbor's house to raid her refrigerator and use her telephone for long distance calls. Okay. And he broke into it thinking that she was gone.

[00:02:18] She came back while he was in there and he murdered her and her two year old daughter. Wow. Yeah. No fooling lo loaded the bodies up in her car drove off about 40 miles into another county. Neighboring county, dumped the bodies in a, in an abandoned barn. Went back to her house, made his telephone calls, stole two pounds of ground meat from her freezer and jar pennies off of her kitchen counter.

[00:02:58] And of course, it. just pennies but it was good enough. And eventually he he confessed and he was executed by the state of Texas. But actually the first person executed in the year 2000.

[00:03:20] So starting with that with that set of actual events, I create a life for him a, character for him and and show how his lack of education, his refusal to go to school. He drops outta school before he finishes high school. Ends up condemning him to to a life of ignorance.

[00:03:52] And specifically to a life where he has never learned to think critically about his actions so that he can he can reason, for example from his behaviors to the consequences of his behaviors. That's why we teach kids critical thinking skills. So they can figure these things out.

[00:04:13] In, in America you're free to do anything, you want to do. You can do anything. , but you can't choose the consequences of your behavior. Consequences are going to be determined by what you do. And a lot of, kids don't, get that idea coming through school and, or for that matter, a lot of other necessary life skills.

[00:04:43] All of them all of them going along with the, with the principle of critical thinking. So part of what what I'm doing in Jar of Pennies is telling the story of a guy who just didn't have the the, education and to acquire the skill to think through what happens when you do certain sorts of things.

[00:05:15] And the result of that is he, can only live a, life of reaction. He can't plan for anything in the future, he can't plan his actions so that he ends up in a place where he wants to end up. And the ultimate result of living a life of reaction is he lives just long enough for the state to execute him.

[00:05:37] And that is pretty much the fate of anybody who who fails to learn these, extremely important skills while they're in, while they're in school. And I think the emphasis on critical thinking has really dropped out of education particularly in the last 20 or so years because we have, we've concentrated as, a nation we've, decided that it's better for students to be able to answer trivia tests on subject matter, than it is for them to be able to reason from point A to Point B or C or D or however far down the road you have to go. That's not true everywhere. And there are a lot of really dedicated educators who who try to overcome those state standards. But when your educational system depends upon a, multiple choice test the only questions they can ask on a multiple choice test are who did so and so on what date, and not why did they do it right? Why, did the why did Washington cross the Delaware? What were his options? How, what other ways could he have done that? Those questions never, come up. All you have to learn is that he crossed it right. so, you've got an opportunity there to bring students along into, developing a skill. And this may be a bad example, but developing a skill to think about the motivations behind different kinds of historical actions and the alternatives that could have been taken in the results of those alternatives.

[00:07:39] I think that's an incredibly important skill for students to learn and it just distresses me no end that we don't seem to have that as the center of our educational policy, at least not in Texas. One of the things Texas has decided to do this year is completely rewrite the curriculum regarding the Civil War.

[00:08:08] So that slavery no longer ends up being a cause of the Civil War. In fact, the idea of slavery just gets completely suppressed in the official Texas Board of Education curriculum. And that's that's in the history program in. In the economics program. Here's an interesting one.

[00:08:39] In the economics program, the curriculum developed by the Texas Board of Education says that teachers will teach the benefits of a free market system, not the problems with the free market system. Only the benefits. Only the benefits right now that that curriculum does say they will engage in critical thinking. But let me tell you, the critical thinking that they have to engage in only reinforces the idea that the free market system is a benefit.

[00:09:17] It does never questions the principle of free market systems or compares it to, to market systems that are not necessarily free. And Bob, you know the difference between capitalism and piracy. 

[00:09:37] Bob Gatty: Yeah. What is it? 

[00:09:39] John Yearwood: Government regulation. If you don't have government regulation, all capitalists are pirates. They're just basically doing whatever they can do to make the most profit for themselves.

[00:09:55] So if there's not somebody out there leveling the playing field and creating an enforcing laws, people will do whatever they can to make as much profit for themselves as they are able to do. 

[00:10:10] There are limits to the benefits of free market system and so I, do in the novel, I create a character who is a retired Air Force lieutenant Colonel. He's black. He's served for 23 years. He's had a distinguished career. His wife dies of breast cancer at a very young age. So he is, he's widowed or, and and he moves to this little small town called Whitmeyer, which is the center of the story, east Texas.

[00:10:57] Because he, knows that his wife wanted him to do something to give back to the community and to do whatever he could do to make the world a, better place. And he figures that the only the only way to avoid war is for people to be educated. So he wants to commit himself to for the rest of his life, and he's got a good long life to live in this.

[00:11:22] He's only in his early forties by this point. He's got a good long life to live and he wants to commit it to, to educating kids and helping them think through these things and creating, educational programs that teach them critical thinking skills in all sorts of ways. and he runs into a lot of headwind from the administration who are only interested in the, in how the kids perform on the state mandated multiple choice tests.

[00:11:54] The teacher is, in some ways the exact opposite of the of the villain in this story. He can think he is educated, he has experience. He he has a distinguished service record. He's a man of, with education and bearing and, he's black.

[00:12:18] And so in a sense, he is probably the most. Type of person in East Texas, because he's not going to be intimidated by anybody who in the white culture, who thinks they're entitled to think of themselves as superior. So he, makes some good friends. I and it, was fun to explore his life and and, see how he went about surviving and and making friends. So anyway. 

[00:12:55] Bob Gatty: John, in your opinion, do differences in diversity within the population of small town America versus larger American cities play an important role. Is, there, are there differences there that,

[00:13:15] that are important? 

[00:13:16] Yeah I, think so. You. There are various kinds of ghettos. Rich people live in a ghetto. Poor people live in a ghetto, and they're the same, they're the same sociological organization. They're closed off. Only certain sorts of people who belong there end up there. People who do not obviously belong are ostracized and treated with suspicion. And it doesn't matter whether you're worth a billion dollars or $2, and in, in large populations like say Houston or Washington, DC is a good, example. You have you have areas of the city. Of all those cities where you have closed off neighborhoods where only certain kinds of people go. If you're not an oil billionaire, you don't belong in River Oaks, Houston.

[00:14:35] But if you're in a small town of the population of a 1500 of 2000 people, you're gonna know everybody, and it won't matter whether that person's worth $2 or worth a billion dollars. If there's a person there that's worth a billion dollars, you're gonna know who it is, right? Gonna, you're gonna recognize on site, they'll probably know who you are.

[00:14:57] You'll know everybody's, vehicle. You'll know everybody's license plate number. You'll know the names of all their dogs. You'll know people who are felon and murderers and people who are borderline insane. You'll also meet people who are, geniuses or borderline geniuses.

[00:15:28] You'll meet great artists. They may not be as great as, say Michael Angelo is great, but that, but in, in terms of of what they can do. , they're pretty good. I met a woman whose name was, her name was Ruby, and she had been trained in classical ballet and had gone to one of those major conservatories to learn how to play classical piano.

[00:16:01] So she, she was very talented in both of those areas. When I knew her, she was in her sixties or seventies. She was some 30 years older than me. And she had a, house with a beautiful atrium, two-story atrium with a glass roof over, and she had a pair of grand pianos set side to side where they where they nestled into one another. And she was either playing the piano all the time, or she was having friends of hers come over and they would be playing duets and and just a very classy, lady. And there was another lady named Ruby who wandered the streets, was homeless was a diagnosed, paranoid schizophrenic couldn't feed herself frequently. certainly couldn't take care of herself. Needed her lithium from time to time. And she ended up wandering into the newspaper office where I ended up taking care of her for the next 15 years, and finally got her into a nursing home where she was, taken care of and spent the last of her life there.

[00:17:18] But those two people both named Ruby at absolutely opposite. Extremes of the social, spectrum and at opposite extremes of the mental spectrum. 

[00:17:33] What, do you mean you ended up taking care of her for 15 years? 

[00:17:38] John Yearwood: I meant that I watched out for her. I, provided her transportation. I made sure she had food to eat.

[00:17:46] I made sure she had a place to sleep. A safe place to sleep. Okay. , when she got sick, I made sure that she got down to the doctor to be taken care of. If she had bills, she couldn't pay. I I helped her pay them and that was frequent. But she didn't really spend much money. She no she was frugal.

[00:18:12] She would only buy food that she herself was going to eat. And that was, so that was good. I got her into a a subsidized housing government subsidized apartment and then would check up on her every once in a while to make sure that the canned goods in her pantry were not growing botulism and that her garbage was getting carried out and then once, a week I had arranged with her to show up down at the office and and the day after the paper came out, because that was the slow day for us, and I would spend an hour listening to her and treating her like a real human being and and letting her talk.

[00:19:07] And then I'd get her to carry out the, waste baskets and Do a little cleaning up and then I'd pay her something for that. And and, in that, that went on for 15 years. Wow. Jen so 

[00:19:25] Bob Gatty: Why, did you do that? Why did you do that? 

[00:19:31] John Yearwood: First of all, because she was human.

[00:19:33] Yeah. And any human being is worth is worth looking after and taking care of. I, did it because I was, I thought I was also, I was not only taking care of her, I was I was also doing a kind of public service because I was relieving other parts of the community of, the burden of having to try to take care of her when other parts of the community weren't set up to do it or were too busy.

[00:20:11] Or, in some other way engaged in trying to go about their business. And there were people who, would help me if I asked 'em to. I just took it on and why do I do that? I do that and I've done that many times. I do it cause I think people deserve to be treated with dignity even.

[00:20:40] they need to be treated with dignity, even if they are not themselves dignified. Does that make sense? Yeah, it does. You 

[00:20:47] Bob Gatty: said you've, you said you've done this many times. Yes, I have.

[00:20:55] You're a special kind of human being, I 

[00:20:57] John Yearwood: think. Thanks for saying so. . 

[00:21:03] Bob Gatty: I don't know how many people would do that. That's a lot. 

[00:21:10] John Yearwood: Some people say, I'm just a sucker . 

[00:21:14] Bob Gatty: I don't know. It's

[00:21:19] John Yearwood: Yeah. I have a, man I'm taking, helping take care of now he's in his late sixties. He's diabetic. He can hardly get around. Because he is diabetic, he's losing the function of his legs. Yeah. Along with his kidneys. And so I'll, I make sure that he has food to eat and I'll go to the pharmacy and pick up his medications cuz he can't get 'em any other way. I help arrange helped to arrange for some housekeepers to go by and once a week and carry out his garbage and make his bed and mop his floor.

[00:22:08] Just you just help people. That's who I am. I just help people and I feel passionately about, about doing that. We're all in this together. We're, re we're responsible for one another for crying out loud. A lot of people don't know that and a lot of people have, ignored.

[00:22:34] in the last since Reagan I You were in Washington DC before Reagan came. Yeah. And came into office, but you never saw any homeless people on the streets of Washington when you were there but, three years into Reagan's administration, suddenly they're 50,000 homeless people trying to lie on lying on heating grates.

[00:22:58] Bob Gatty: John, I will tell you that There was a park bench a football field away from the White House and homeless people used to sleep on that park bench, those park benches. There was more than one and in all kind of weather, and I could never understand how that could possibly be. That in the city where, which is a seat of our government, where we're supposed to find ways to help our citizens.

[00:23:42] We could have, that kind of thing going on. But it's true. And yeah, the 

[00:23:48] John Yearwood: largest economy in the planet. Our country has the largest economy on the planet, and we do less to help our, citizens than any other country. Yeah. Yeah, but probably less than our peers. Yeah. I 

[00:24:01] Bob Gatty: remember one time John I, was I was working on Capitol Hill for this congressman and I used to walk down every day at lunchtime.

[00:24:13] I used to walk down independence Avenue to go to a certain restaurant that I liked for lunch and there was an African American man who was homeless, who hung out on this bench along the street, and he was always there and it was coming into winter and he used to, call me Mr.

[00:24:51] Mr. Bob. And I said to him one day I want you to be here Wednesday at lunchtime I'm gonna have something for you. And he said, oh, okay. What are you gonna have for me? And I said, no, it's a surprise. Oh. So someone had given me a a London Fog winter coat. Yeah. And I didn't need it.

[00:25:25] And I didn't need it. And I didn't need it. And so I intended to bring it to him. And so I said, okay, I'll be here Wednesday at noon with this thing for you. Be here. He said, okay. So I went home and I told my wife I was gonna do that, and she said, my. Who's no longer my wife now. She said, what the hell are you doing that for?

[00:25:57] He won't keep his appointment. Homeless people don't keep their appointments . And I said we'll see. So I took him the London fog coat and gave it to him, and he was so appreciative. and that man never took that thing off all winter. He just had it on all the time. 

[00:26:22] John Yearwood: 24 hours a day probably.

[00:26:24] Yeah. He kept his 

[00:26:25] Bob Gatty: appointment

[00:26:32] And I felt good about that. It, really wasn't any big deal. It was just giving a guyan extra coat. But it was a big deal to him and sure. Yeah. I wanted to ask you a couple of things. Do you experience in in, the area where you live you're, in a small town or big town or 

[00:27:06] John Yearwood: what?

[00:27:07] Right now I'm living in Austin, Texas and it's. a very large town these days. Yeah, 2 million 

[00:27:15] Bob Gatty: people. Are you is there corruption that you have to deal with in, in politics 

[00:27:22] John Yearwood: there? It would be hard to tell whether there was or not. Yeah, Corruption in Austin. Cause the journalism in this area has, Really deteriorated.

[00:27:41] Oh, really? Yeah. I'm, afraid I have to say that Uhhuh, but I've known some cases of corruption. I, knew a case where an assistant district attorney took goods that had been stolen by people who were caught and then loaded him into the trunk of his car and drove him down the street and sold him off on the side of the street.

[00:28:07] Sold off computer parts and guns and

[00:28:15] various kinds of radio equipment, yeah. I've known that to happen. 

[00:28:21] Bob Gatty: Yeah. Yeah. , do you feel like there's a difference between what goes on in small towns as compared to what goes on in big towns? 

[00:28:31] John Yearwood: My opinion is that everybody's the same. Not only are they the same in small towns as they are in big towns, but they're, the same now that they were 5,000 years ago.

[00:28:44] I, don't think humanity changes much at all. We're 

[00:28:53] Bob Gatty: What about diversity 

[00:28:54] John Yearwood: and racial unrest? Racial unrest I believe is one of the major problems in America today. Yeah I, think it's a major problem cause it's completely irrational. And cause it's irrational, it means it has no reasonable solution. When you start talking about people's emotion and irrational feeling is an emotion that has no reason for existence. And when you start talking about that you realize that it's, it will be very difficult to change. 

[00:29:37] Bob Gatty: Why do you think it's gotten worse?

[00:29:42] John Yearwood: There are two reasons I think.

[00:29:47] One of them is that certain political elements in this country are have used racism as a way of whipping up support for themselves. Among those people who are fearful of people that are not exactly don't look exactly like them. That's one of the reasons, and another reason is because in some ways the same political system, political faction have generated or generated fear about white people losing control of the country. . And that's been going on for a long time. But if you go back again, you go back to the Reagan era, and in the whole Iran contract thing, which was clearly illegal from the very start was was a holdover from the McCarthy era about the red square.

[00:30:56] It was scary the communists taking over. And and it was, it. , it was the, government trying to figure out a way to stop Communist and Nicaragua. They didn't do that very well, did they? And then there was the Equal Rights Amendment, and you had somebody like Phyllis Schlafly who's, who devoted her life to campaigning against a, granting equal rights to women which made no sense to me.

[00:31:28] As a woman, why would she do that , but she did, and generating all kinds of baseless fears about what would happen if women had rights equal to those of men. And and she was celebrated as a hero by certain political factions in this country who used that as a way of of, resisting any kind of change.

[00:31:50] And in fact, as it turns out, resistance to change is a major part of what goes on in American Politics. There was a wonderful study of small town America done by a group of Harvard sociologist group at Harvard. They published a book about it, and they looked at hundreds, maybe thousands of small towns. They had a, cutoff spot.

[00:32:14] I think they had 7,000 people, was a maximum population that they looked at. And they, said in general, every small town has four families that control everything.

[00:32:31] I don't know why it's four, but it's four. Okay. And, they stay in control by resisting change. They don't want anything to change because guess what? They're happy being the most powerful people in their town. So new businesses don't come in without their permission or without their participation. nothing changes.

[00:33:01] Phyllis Schlafly's a an example of that. Nothing changes. When you have that kind of political attitude Yeah. Nothing changes so, that you end up staying. Wow. Spiro Agnew made fun of liberals by calling them troglodytes. The word means knuckle draggers. That's what a troglodyte.

[00:33:25] and talk about knuckle dragging. Yeah. These people who resist anything that might be benefit the, community at large who resist change. Did you know that the United States is the only developed country in the world that doesn't grant maternity leave? 

[00:33:48] Bob Gatty: Yes, I know, and I just do not understand how that possibly can be that that is the case. It's incredible. But the, other day when, they were negotiating the rail contract, and I realized that it was over sick pay. Who doesn't get sick pay? 

[00:34:14] John Yearwood: Who doesn't get sick pay? Who doesn't get days off for being sick? Uhhuh . Yeah, you.

[00:34:21] Yeah. Sorry. Again, benefits of a free enterprise economy Absolutely. 

[00:34:29] Bob Gatty: Absolutely. Absolutely, Now, I have a question here that I wrote down. I'm not quite sure how this fits in with what we're talking about, but let me read it to you. . How is fear a rural pastime in east Texas practiced by locals on one another, sometimes in jest and on most strangers as a way of preventing social change?

[00:34:55] You, you you like to use a rattlesnake as an example, right? Yeah. . Yeah. Tell me about that. Yeah 

[00:35:06] John Yearwood: You know that, that. . There are two reasons why I have a, rattlesnake image. Let me just talk about the rattlesnake for a minute. Yeah, go ahead. Back to 

[00:35:15] Bob Gatty: that. Go ahead. 

[00:35:19] John Yearwood: In the little East Texas town where I lived and had my newspaper for 15 years and, still have property and friends over there if you walk down the.

[00:35:29] there's a, the courthouse is, the center of town and there's a courthouse square around it and businesses. And if you're walking down one of those sidewalks, it goes down three steps. And if you look, you'll see that the steps of pockmark in a particular place, well under Lyndon Johnson, revenue sharing became a popular thing so, the, this little town received a share of revenue share from the federal government, and they couldn't think of anything to do with it except they had a, bunch of old guys who were always sitting out under the oak trees playing dominoes all day long and, commenting on the world and telling everybody what to do, including them. So they built themselves, so the, county built the little domino hall and put in an air conditioning unit. So these guys would have a way to get out and play dominoes somewhere else. Okay. And could be ignored. Of course they didn't go there but, one day they were all sitting around the, under the oak trees.

[00:36:34] And this huge rattlesnake suddenly starts, just suddenly appears from the basement of the courthouse and starts winding its way across the across the lawn directly towards this group of seven or eight octogenarians sitting there playing dominoes with one another. They, they scatter like a flock of chicken, seeing a rooster for the first time, , and he'd go screaming into the courthouse going snake, snake. And and one of the deputies, the sheriff's office was at that time was in the, courthouse. And one of the deputies comes running out and, one somebody's standing off at a distance and they're pointing to that snake and everybody can see the snake things six, seven feet long. Oh.

[00:37:31] It's, and big and fat. Yeah. And the snake crosses the street and gets to the sidewalk, and it's going up those three steps on the sidewalk. And the deputy finally running like hell maybe four miles an hour, huffs and puffs up to the sidewalk, draws his 45 revolver and starts shooting at the snake.

[00:37:55] That's where the pock marks on the, in the sidewalk come from. And he does, he kills the snake and then that's the end of it and nobody sees any more snakes and that's, and it's all gone. And that's the end of that story. I killed the snake. Snake. Okay. But the snake had been fattening itself on the rats living in the courthouse, which it's a metaphor.

[00:38:16] Yeah. It's, hard to ignore, you know what I mean? 

[00:38:22] Bob Gatty: Yeah, yeah. That's, pretty good. All right. I don't know where that, where I came up with that question. I must have read. In some of your stuff you sent me, I don't know, , right? 

[00:38:37] John Yearwood: So, then a couple of years later, there's a guy who, who is traveling around with a, couple of hundred rattlesnakes and he's offering to show rattlesnakes to school children and members of the community.

[00:38:55] And so he's got a little plexiglass cage that, and he'll, get all his snakes, he'll put all these snakes out in this plex glass cage, and he'll go out and stand among all, of these poisonous rattlesnakes. Now, if I'd been doing that, I would've made sure the snakes had been milked before I put 'em out there.

[00:39:16] I'm not sure that this guy was that smart , but he went out there and he was standing around and he'd poke at 'em with a stick. He, you could tell he was keeping a sharp eye on these snake. But then he would start inviting members of the community to go in there and stand with him.

[00:39:34] I was not one of them. I did have a camera just in case somebody ended up dropping dead of a heart attack. All right. Or a snake bite.

[00:39:48] And what I noticed was about 70% of the snakes just wanted to get away. Ah-huh. they wanted to they just wanted to get away from this guy and, go and they congregated at the far sides of the plexiglass cage. And they weren't bothering anybody. And you could tell they were a little concerned cause they were crawling all over one another.

[00:40:16] And even just imagine a hundred rattlesnakes in a small space, but the other 30% of them, coiled up and their ra, their little rattles were just going, yeah. And they were ready to strike. A rattlesnake will hit you from four feet away. It'll leap out and and sink its teeth into you and it opens up real wide..

[00:40:50] And I got to thinking, you know, this is a metaphor for the danger of the natural world. Cause about 70% of the time you can get away with taking a risk.

[00:41:07] And about 30% of the time you die.

[00:41:13] Bob Gatty: Alright,

[00:41:18] John Yearwood: That's that old here. Hold my beer. I got something to show you. Yeah, great. And sometimes you live sometimes you can do that twice. . Yeah. 

[00:41:29] Bob Gatty: Yeah. All right. I got another question for you that's off of, on a different tangent. I didn't. Oh, 

[00:41:39] John Yearwood: I got distracted. I got distracted by rattlesnakes.

[00:41:42] All right. I'm sorry. I have adhd. It's you to. I realized after many years of living, living among these people in east Texas, that the main way that they communicated with one another was to try to be intimidating. And your response to their intimidation indicated how much of a friend you thought they were.

[00:42:05] Okay. But it didn't matter, everybody was trying to intimidate everybody else. And it was also a source of wonderful one-liners and retorts and it was it was fun to watch and it was really almost like a folk art where people learned to men. I'm not sure it went on among women very much.

[00:42:35] but but men would always sort of be poking at one another and Right. And saying threatening sorts of things to one another, but saying it in a way that were, if you took it seriously, then there was a reason why

[00:42:53] you took it seriously. And and, then everybody's on their guard and, before you know it, there's a feud and somebody gets shot and. . And if you didn't take it seriously, you would, you better have a, good comeback because otherwise it could escalate to something serious. So as a kind of folk art or I don't even be real sure how a sociologist would describe it, but I think it, it's a, it was a, common kind of way of people just getting along with one another.

[00:43:33] But but it was always, underlying that a sense of threat, always a sense of threat. And that's what I meant by art fears and art form. Got it. I was concerned my first couple of years because I kept getting threatened by people until I finally realized, oh, this is what they're doing.

[00:43:59] Bob Gatty: You were getting threatened? How? What do you mean? 

[00:44:01] John Yearwood: Oh people would say we know where you live, but of course, why were 

[00:44:07] Bob Gatty: they doing that? What were you doing that they, 

[00:44:12] John Yearwood: that's what I'm telling you. Why would they do it? Because it was socially expected that people would try to intimidate one another.

[00:44:29] You had to know, you had to be, you had to have enough savvy Yeah. To read the body language and the tone of voice to know whether or not they were serious. Yeah. If you didn't have enough savvy, then you didn't belong in that society. You needed to get the hell out. So in some ways it was their way of, sifting through people who belonged and people who didn't belong. Got it. And, a way of, establishing a, social relationship okay. That's why they did it, I think. I think that's why they did it. it certainly seemed like that. I did get shot at a couple of times. You did? . Yeah that's, always interesting when that happens.

[00:45:23] It does get your attention. Yeah, I would say. What happened? I was being chased by a couple of deputies who off-duty deputies who were not too happy about some stories that I'd been writing about the sheriff.

[00:45:47] Of course one of the deputies was later caught stealing. One of those deputies was later caught stealing from a local business. He was, he'd been hired as a night watchman and he went over and got got some of the, prisoners out of the county jail and took 'em over to the business and said, go in there and get so they went in. I took photos,

[00:46:23] he was fired. He went to prison for three years. Wow. And then I learned my next most important lesson, which is they, never go away. Yeah. He came back after three years. Yeah. 

[00:46:40] Bob Gatty: So you did you own this, Newspaper. Was it a weekly or what? 

[00:46:47] John Yearwood: It was a weekly. I owned it. Yeah, I started it, yeah. Okay. Does it still exist? It has been combined with another paper and the name has been changed. Okay. 

[00:47:02] Bob Gatty: Okay. All right. I got another question that kind of goes off into another little tangent, but.

[00:47:13] Increased use of ar, artificial intelligence strikes me that that with these apps, kids could avoid having to learn anything when it comes to writing. That 

[00:47:30] John Yearwood: true? Artificial intelligence will only help you in as much as you understand what you want it to do, which is the hard part of writing to begin with.

[00:47:47] Yeah. So you have to know what kinds of questions you want the artificial, intelligence to answer. And if you've gone into that much work, you might as well write it yourself. It's a lot faster. Yeah. So Yeah. Yeah. Some, but yes, that's a good question. And and it's a troubling question.

[00:48:10] it takes the idea of plagiarism to a whole new level. The word plagiarism is a Greek word, meaning to kidnap. And and if you're kidnapping somebody else's ideas, then that's a form of theft. Just as though you were kidnapping their children. Yeah. Artificial intelligence, you are it's not plagiarism, it's.

[00:48:36] you're pretending to be something that you're not. But there are people who have finally figured out how you can tell the difference between something which is artificially, which is written using artificial intelligence and something that's not. And part of that is by knowing your students well enough to know their patterns of speech.

[00:49:02] You can, wa you can watch them write words on a page, they're in the class. Sure. And then you have a sample of their writing Sure. That you can use, compare against a paper that gets turned in. And if you have questions about the paper, you can just bring them in and sit them down and say here on page three in paragraph two, you say so and so and would you explain to me what that really means?

[00:49:27] And then you can find out on the other. , this is an opportunity to reconsider how we teach the use of language in school. Should we be teaching as we have for decades, maybe century? Should we be teaching writing the common essay, for example? Should we be asking students to write about a work of literature?

[00:50:03] These are the common kinds of assignments that teachers give out to their classes. It bores students to death sometimes. Sure. Cause they're so predictive. And cause they don't wanna go to the effort, they just don't want to go to the effort. So why don't they want to go to the effort, I could be a strange person. I could be off the charts in idiosyncrasy. I, could, but to me, learning is the most fun thing There is, yes. And. at this age, it's almost the only fun thing. . The only fun thing there is, you well know. Yeah. . 

[00:50:49] Bob Gatty: Oh yeah. There you go. 

[00:50:55] John Yearwood: But why isn't learning fun?

[00:50:57] Why isn't learning fun when you go to school? Because if it's fun, then it's creative. And why? Why are we not helping students be creative and engaged instead of being forced to memorize boring sets of, facts. Yeah. That are, they're completely unrelated to their lives. Yeah. 

[00:51:24] Bob Gatty: I noticed the Facebook post of yours in which you say that over the last five years you've mentored local, elementary and middle school kids as a volunteer reading teacher. And that this year you had two pregnant 12 year olds in school, both victims of Incests. Yes. And you write that if you support overturning Roe, then you murdered those girls. Comment about that. They're 

[00:51:59] John Yearwood: 12.

[00:52:06] they might not be able to carry to term anyway. But in Texas, a pregnant 12 year old might not be able to receive the obs obstetric care. That she needs to survive a pregnancy because the doctors might be, might lose their medical licenses. They might they might be sent to prison

[00:52:47] Bob Gatty: if they perform an abortion, you mean, 

[00:52:51] John Yearwood: or do anything else to help these girls. Yeah. 

[00:52:58] Bob Gatty: That's a freaking crime. . 

[00:53:01] John Yearwood: Yeah. It's a crime. Yep. It's a crime. It's a crime. It's generated by a certain religious element. I sympathize with with, people who feel that way. I think they're shortsighted. I don't think they're aware of the kinds of, cruelty that they are conflicting on. on, on people who are victimized. Yeah. 

[00:53:30] So what are your 

[00:53:31] Bob Gatty: thoughts about, what are your thoughts about the Supreme Court? Should it be expanded?

[00:53:44] John Yearwood: FDR thought about, thought that it shouldn't, didn't he?

[00:53:51] If you were gonna expand it, you would have to add two members, wouldn't you? Oh. And go from nine to 11. So you would never end up with a, an even vote, right?

[00:54:06] Or you would have to add four. Should it be expanded? I think that would get us through a a difficult period right now with Okay. With, the current court, but I don't think the court's the problem. Yeah. Really. I think Congress is the problem. Okay. Congress is we elect Congress to be our, elected representatives.

[00:54:36] They, need to reflect our the, they need to refl reflect in the law our, view for what the law ought to be and for what the majority of us think it ought to be. , you can put all people on the Supreme Court that you want. I don't think that's gonna make that big a difference. Uhhuh , it's Congress.

[00:54:56] It needs to make the difference. Okay. 

[00:54:59] Bob Gatty: Okay. Does that make sense? Yeah, it does. Okay. John, this has been a real, really interesting discussion. Where can people how can people reach out to you and how can I find your book 

[00:55:13] John Yearwood: books? My, my, books are available on Amazon. they're available in print a soft cover and hard cover.

[00:55:23] They're, available on Kindle. They're available on Audible. I've recorded these books. Okay. I have a website, john Okay. And of course, I'm on Facebook and Twitter and Instagram, okay. Okay. They can find me. They can find me. Okay, excellent. 

[00:55:47] It's been a real pleasure to talk to you too, so thank 

[00:55:50] Bob Gatty: you. Thank you, John. I really enjoyed it. And I thank you for being with us today on the Lean to the Left Podcast. 

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