Thursday, March 09, 2006

Word of the Month: Mystification

Mystification: The activity of obscuring people's understanding, leaving them baffled or bewildered.

Okay folks, I've been planning to blog on this subject for a while and I've been doing some research in preparation. Unfortunately, the luxury of time was lost with an editorial in today's Capital-Journal and so I'll jump into this now.

Here's the piece, in its entirety:

Published Thursday, March 9, 2006

Tolerance -- Good timing

By The Capital-Journal editorial board

The Character Word of the Month has won favorable reviews from many in Topeka since the international program was first implemented here. It consists of 49 positive characteristics to be given emphasis, one each month.

This month's word, "tolerance" couldn't have come at a better time. However, the definition given to the word by the international organization falls short of the kind of tolerance needed in Topeka now.

The program defines the word as "realizing that everyone is at varying levels of character development."

That seems to put the onus on the people to be tolerated, rather on those needing to be tolerant.

Just because someone annoys us with his views or some other characteristic that is different from ours doesn't mean that other person is flawed. It just means he's different.

Webster defines "tolerate" as "to recognize and respect others' beliefs, practices, etc., without sharing them."

That's what Topeka needs more of.

Well that's just fine except for one thing, the Capital-Journal is one of the major sponsors of this program in Topeka, outside of the city government. As such, this accurate (if brief) and overdue examination of the program is both welcomed and mystifying.

It makes me wonder if there is a factional skirmish over the program at 6th and Jefferson. One day I'll talk about the tension at a newspaper, between journalism and commerce...newsroom and sales department. Perhaps the editorial board may be the third leg of this stool.

The Capital-Journal presents the program at You'll notice that they have ommited the definition discussed in the editorial in favor of these other bits from the support materials:

Tolerance vs. Prejudice
Tolerance is:
• Not confusing what is right with what is popular
• Expecting the same of myself as I expect of others
• Looking for ways to help others mature
• Accepting my own unchangables and the unchangeables of others
• Listening before I form an opinion

The editorial identifies the issues I'd been preparing to discuss. These are, the laughable definitions of the words and the agenda these definitions expose upon close examination.

I've been disturbed by the billboards since they first appeared. What dictionary are these people using. Here is last month's installment:

Resourcefulness: Finding practical uses for that which others would overlook or discard

I may not know much, but that's a really bad definition for resourcefulness. It might work for "frugality" but when I think of resourcefulness, I think of creatively solving problems with limited means. offers, "Able to act effectively or imaginatively, especially in difficult situations." I'll buy that.

I'll assume that many of you, like myself before I began researching, know little, if anything about the program. The "City of Character" program is a product of the International Association of Character Cities, based in Oklahoma City, and an offshoot of something called the Character Training Institute.

In Silja J.A. Talvi's excellent examination of this program and it's purveyors, he singles out the first "character" word that raised my eyebrow:

Obedience: Quickly and cheerfully carrying out the direction of those who are responsible for me

Elsewhere in the company's literature Talvi finds this definition for the same word:

"Obedience" is defined as the "freedom to be creative under the protection of divinely appointed authorities. All legitimate authority comes from God. He is the One who sets up rulers and takes them down. ... God ordained government to carry out his will in matters of justice."

See where these people are coming from? Talvi has one company representative on record as saying, "We use this because we can't take religion into schools and government. But it's all based on the same thing."

How much are taxpayer paying to promote this thinly camoflaged religious agenda?

Talvi's research is an eye-opener. I highly recommend reading his work. I can't possibly improve upon it

For a bit of added perspective, here's what Phil Anderson, the Capital-Journal's "Faith" reporter wrote about the program two years ago:

Program makes mark in Topeka

Let's hope some people at C-J are ready to give this program a serious examination.



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