YDS: The Clare Spark Blog

September 2, 2015

Catholics, Marxists, and a sprinkling of neocons

Filed under: Uncategorized — clarelspark @ 8:04 pm
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Cardinal Mindszenty sculpture, Wikipedia

Cardinal Mindszenty sculpture, Wikipedia

It has occurred to me that there is a close affinity between the early Marx essays and medieval Catholicism. The notion of “profit” was anathema during the Middle Ages, and considered a cause of decadence. Plus, those of my ex-friends on the Left who are professional scholars have found jobs at Catholic universities and colleges. It may be counter-intuitive, but such Catholic movements as liberation theology, and the Dorothy Day Catholic Workers movement (https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Dorothy_Day) are more evidence that segments of the Church would have to mirror leftist rejection of Israel, siding with irredentist Palestinians; moreover Pope Francis has lined up with the left-leaning Green movement.

On the face of it, there could be no affinity between Catholicism and Marxism, for weren’t Catholics such as Cardinal Mindszenty (1892-1975) a major figure in the resistance to Communism before and after World War II? (https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/J%C3%B3zsef_Mindszenty).

And are not Catholics and evangelical Protestants, notwithstanding their doctrinal differences, on the same side in the culture wars, with both sides devoted to family life, and taking up arms against [jewified] modernity? Was not the chief item in the controversial Moynihan report on the alarming increase in black welfare assistance and illegitimacy, the reconstitution of the father-led nuclear family? (http://clarespark.com/2015/08/08/the-moynihan-report-march-1965-and-instability-in-the-black-family/).

The early Marx essays (Economic and Philosophical Manuscripts, 1844) were not widely published and read until the turmoil of the 1960s (their first publication date was 1932). Anyone who has studied them must be struck by Marx’s argument that “money” is the “universal pimp”, turning ugliness into beauty. During the same period, he decried Jewish “hucksterism” as the obstacle to the Utopia that would be realized through communist revolution. Similarly, the influential German sociologist Max Weber, would describe the rise of capitalism after the Reformation as an onslaught against the lovely sensuality shattered by the iron cages of “materialism,” i.e., worldliness. (The German “radical” Werner Sombart (https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Werner_Sombart), a colleague of Weber’s, would echo these sentiments, arguing that Jews were incapable of relating to Nature without mysticism:

[We see “the teleological view”] in all those Jews who, with a soul-weariness within them and a faint smile on their countenances, understanding and forgiving everything, stand and gaze at life from their own heights, far above this world…Jewish poets are unable simply to enjoy the phenomena of this world, whether it be human fate or Nature’s vagaries; they must needs cogitate upon it and turn it about and about.  Nowhere is the air scented with the primrose and the violet; nowhere gleams the spray of the rivulet in the wood.  But to make up for the lack of these they possess the wonderful aroma of old wine and the magic charm of a pair of beautiful eyes gazing sadly in the distance…Goethe said that the essence of the Jewish character was energy and the pursuit of direct ends.” [End, Sombart quote}

Because of our hegemonic racialism, Marx is thought of as a Jewish materialist, though his Jewish father converted to Protestantism for social advancement in 1819. (http://usreligion.blogspot.com/2013/11/karl-marx-as-radical-protestant-infidel.html), and Marx (and his Leninist descendants) continue to rail against religion as the opiate of the masses, an element of feudal socialism (http://encyclopedia2.thefreedictionary.com/Feudal+Socialism).

I have written about the “moderation” of ex-Marxists and ex-New Leftists before, especially in blogs about nostalgia for the Middle Ages, and especially an apparent desire for the return of the Good King, who stands with the People against the social chaos wrought by revolting factions (e.g., feminists!). The same reconstructed historians, political scientists, and journalists, may promiscuously use the term “totalitarianism” to equate communism with fascism (http://clarespark.com/2013/02/02/totalitarianism-polarization-and-single-issue-politics).

So did Cardinal Mindszenty.

cardinal-mindszenty-put-under-duress-newspaper-1956

August 29, 2015

Questions for education reformers

Filed under: Uncategorized — clarelspark @ 11:04 pm

clarelspark:

Re-blogging because education reform is the basis for a reconstituted, politically aware, electorate. It has never mattered more than at the present.

Originally posted on YDS: The Clare Spark Blog:

I have been corresponding with Eva Moskowitz,  a leader in NYC education reform. She is involved with the Charter School movement (see http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Charter_schools), and has a well-researched critique of the “therapeutic” culture that has distorted our education system since the late 19th century, most recently in the emphasis on “self-esteem” in the multicultural curriculum. Her book illuminated for me some of the “progressive” precursors to New Age thinking, a psychology cult that is particularly strong in California, and which is both silly and dangerous.

What follows are some of my initial thoughts about obstacles to reforming our schools, with some special attention to the charter school movement, though that is not the focus of this blog. I have included links to earlier blogs on this website.

1. Fragmentation of the professions:  because of the way that college education evolved, the holistic “philosophic” approach of such thinkers as Bernard Mandeville…

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August 14, 2015

The Trump Phenomenon: a triumph or a disaster?

Trump on the stump in Iowa

Trump on the stump in Iowa

Even Fox News Channel can’t make up its collective mind over Donald Trump’s candidacy. Hannity loves him and O’Reilly pushes him, while Charles Krauthammer, their most respected pundit, doesn’t take him all that seriously.

I do.

For most of my adult life I have studied the influence of fascism in Europe and America, in all its manifestations. While others castigate Trump as a bully, a fraud, a celebrity tied to mass culture, a narcissistic businessman allied with dubious companies (such as ACN, see page one story in WSJ

8-14-15), I agree with my son-in-law who nailed him as a street fighter and a primitive. I go even further, for he reminds me of a parody of masculinity, but more, the S.A., Hitler’s populist Brownshirts, led by the Strasser brothers, who made trouble throughout the 1920s and early 30s until they were purged in The Night of the Long Knives, June 30, 1934, an event that led William E. Dodd, the US Ambassador to Hitler’s Germany, resign his post. (http://clarespark.com/2011/08/14/review-in-the-garden-of-beasts-by-erik-larson/.)

Hitler with S.A. comrades

Hitler with S.A. comrades

[Although propagandists and even historians emphasize “the Nazi seizure of power” the better scholars emphasize Hitler’s coalition with monarchists and conservatives opposed to the social democratic Weimar Republic. Hitler was appointed Chancellor by President Paul von Hindenburg in order to destroy communism (a communism that today’s Right frequently associates with the Democratic Party), and the 1933 elections were no Nazi landslide, but garnered only 43.91% of the vote (almost the same plurality that elected Bill Clinton). For my blog on how the Democratic Party has absorbed ideas originally associated with Marxist practice, see http://clarespark.com/2012/07/19/communist-ideas-go-mainstream/.

Sturmabteilung poster

Sturmabteilung poster

As for big lying to the public, Trump has already delivered some whoppers. For instance, he takes credit for introducing the subject of illegal immigration, when anyone following the records of other Republican candidates is familiar with how and when the views of Bush and Rubio have been modified regarding amnesty. Similarly, in an interview with Sean Hannity, Trump mentioned “health savings accounts” as if he had just dreamed it up. (Both Marco Rubio and Paul Ryan have supported such accounts, but see the idea’s origins here: http://www.afcm.org/hsahistory.html.)

I have my own suspicions of why so many voters are wowed by The Donald. Noting the popularity of The Godfather, The Sopranos, and lately, the wealthy can-do, know-it-all killer played by James Spader on NBC’s The Blacklist, it is not surprising that another larger-than-life character would suddenly capture the imaginations of many populist voters.

So we now have a choice: creeping fascist/populism on the Left with Hillary Clinton/Sanders/Warren/, or creepy fascism on the Right with Donald Trump, our latest Knight in Shining, Glitzy, Armor.

Trump Tower Atrium, NYC

Trump Tower Atrium, NYC

August 8, 2015

The Moynihan Report (March 1965) and “instability” in “the black family”

Daniel Patrick Moynihan 1965

Daniel Patrick Moynihan 1965

This blog is about The Moynihan Report and the Politics of Controversy, written by sociologists Lee Rainwater and William L. Yancey, published by MIT Press in 1966, the gist of which turned out to be fine tuning the interactions between social scientists and the administrative state to correct the pathology viewed as inherent in the “matriarchal,” hence deteriorating, “black family.”

The Moynihan Report, owing to its author’s later prominence, has been publicized recently here: http://www.biographile.com/daniel-patrick-moynihans-leap-into-the-racially-charged-1960s/43315/, and was partly excerpted on History News Network, 8-7-15.

Where did Daniel Patrick Moynihan, then a minor figure in the Department of Labor in the Lyndon Johnson administration get his argument and the impetus to write what was initially an internal secret report (but later partially leaked to the press that made fun of the notion that the male animal was a rooster trained to strut). There were several drivers to the Report: the growing civil rights movement, the unrest exemplified in the Mississippi Freedom Summer and urban riots in 1964, and most importantly, the book authored by black political scientist E. Franklin Frazier in 1957. Here is an excerpt from Frazier quoted by the authors of the 1966 gloss on the Report and its mixed reception:

“The widespread disorganization of family life among Negroes has affected practically every aspect of their community life and adjustments to the larger white world. Because of the absence of stability…there is a lack of traditions…With a fourth to a third of Negro families in cities without a male head, many Negro children suffer the initial handicap of not having the discipline and authority of the father in the home. Negro mothers…are forced to neglect their children who pick up all forms of socially disapproved behavior in the disorganized areas in which these families are concentrated.

“…the public schools cannot make up for the deficiency in family training…Out of such an environment come the large number of criminals and juvenile delinquents in the cities of the country.” (p.312)

(Clearly, Frazier had discarded his pre-war radicalism and had now come out on the side of Order, notwithstanding comments to the contrary in academe. https://www.bu.edu/bridge/archive/2002/08-30/scholars.htm.)

Return to Rainwater and Yancey’s extensive commentary on the Moynihan Report. Throughout their analysis, they complain that Moynihan’s report should have been kept secret from the general public, which they imply was too unacquainted with the feedback loop between economic conditions and family structure.

Besides the obvious example of Frazier, such (white) Harvard sociologists as Talcott Parsons and Erik Erikson advised the novice Moynihan (Rainwater was also a Harvard sociologist, while Yancey taught at Vanderbilt U.). Moynihan’s report blamed slavery and urbanization for the lamentable state of poor black families, and his attack on matriarchy does not sit well with modern feminism, for Moynihan, like Frazier, insisted that a strong father was necessary for healthy families. But in 1966, Protestants and their Jewish allies were less fearful of attacking the tenets of Catholicism, for these authors tell us that Catholic family welfare ideology informed Moynihan’s support of family-focused Big Government solutions.

Lee Rainwater, Harvard sociologist, 1955

Lee Rainwater, Harvard sociologist, 1955

Some of the pushback came from black “militant” civil rights leaders who wanted to continue anti-discrimination and other existing new laws, and all around poverty solutions, including job training, public education, justice, and “decent housing” that would deliver equality of results/life chances, as opposed to “liberty” (with the latter considered to be a [capitalist?] ruse opposed to “equality”).

Some black “militants” considered the Moynihan Report to be insulting to black males, and objected to the focus on the family, seen as victim-blaming.  Rather than the emphasis on “the tangled pathology” in the black family, such organizations as CORE preferred to blame the sickness of America (i.e., white racism).

In any case, the Moynihan Report supported black power and preferential treatment, responding above all, to urban riots in the summer of 1964 but ostensibly to a startling rise in black unemployment and hence increasing welfare payments. (But liberal academics were still fretting over urban unrest in 1968, as I showed here: http://clarespark.com/2010/07/18/white-elite-enabling-of-black-power/.)

Preparations for a Johnson administration-instigated national conference to discuss The Moynihan Report’s “findings” would be diverted by the massive billions diverted to supporting the Vietnam War, with the outcome that civil rights black activists now challenged the war itself.

Conclusion: By (understandably) advocating preferential treatment instead of dealing with class  (not “caste”) disparities and lily-white New Deal unionism (the solutions advocated by such black radicals as Ralph Bunche, Sam Dorsey, and L. Abram Harris in the 1930s: http://clarespark.com/2013/09/02/labor-day-2013/), the administrative state, aided by social psychologists and “moderate” sociologists, increased divisions in the electorate and finally aroused even more antagonism to statist solutions to “the Negro problem.”

Why did they do this? As I have argued previously, the overwhelming imperative to apply band-aids to structural problems in order to prevent red revolution, or to stop more moderate solutions such as school choice, only ripped the “social fabric” that organic conservatives sponsor.

What about the Irish, Polish, and Italian urban ethnics of the working-class who have taken up police work to control urban crime? The measures taken by “moderate conservatives” (the progressives), can be seen as directly leading to the confrontations between white police and lumpen black mobs in such places as Baltimore, Maryland, and Ferguson, Missouri.

Civil Rights activist John Lewis rose out of the movement to become a prominent Democrat, but the antagonisms his head wound embodied, disconcertingly remain.

John Lewis's fractured skull bandaged

John Lewis’s fractured skull bandaged

July 31, 2015

Is there life after birth? Dogs, children, Henry Kissinger, and the breakdown of civil society

“Sugar” as depicted in the Mike Masnick blog

Here (below) is the astounding number of dogs in America. For those attentive to television advertising, dogs are the new love objects (for either sex), and earn the personal sacrifices once reserved for children: even old, feeble dogs warrant backbreaking devotion in a recent Aleve commercial (https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=xuhAKS6Ee0o, also the Subaru Love commercial: http://www.ispot.tv/ad/709i/subaru-impreza-make-a-dogs-day-song-by-willie-nelson). The stats suggest to me that I was correct to ask if we love our dogs more than our children, in my blog on depraved indifference to the fights over school choice. (http://clarespark.com/2015/07/14/depraved-indifference-to-education-reform/.)

http://www.humanesociety.org/issues/pet_overpopulation/facts/pet_ownership_statistics.html, and, http://www.statista.com/statistics/198100/dogs-in-the-united-states-since-2000/

I haven’t blogged in a while because I have been immersed in the lengthy, sometimes lascivious, biography of Henry Kissinger, as attempted by an inside dopester moderate man, Walter Isaacson (1992). (Isaacson is a celebrity himself, and featured interviews or memoirs with Kissinger’s famous former associates.)

HK as power behind the throne (Corbis photo in The Economist)

HK as power behind the throne (Corbis photo in The Economist)

I have several responses to this mammoth, detailed, behind the scenes effort. The author has not the foggiest idea where the notion of “human rights” came from, incorrectly identifying them with Wilsonian internationalism, with its bogus “self-determination.” (For my own views see http://clarespark.com/2011/10/24/turning-points-in-the-ascentdecline-of-the-west/. I see the invention of the printing press as a key turning point making possible mass literacy.) And such internationalism was “idealistic” compared to Kissinger’s Realpolitik approach to foreign relations, which sought stability through European balance of power politics this author associates with Metternich, Castlereagh, Talleyrand, and Bismarck.

Along the way, he also praises HK for brilliance, wit, and charm, but faults him for backbiting, malevolent gossip, and over-the-top ambition. I.e., HK is an uppity German Jew whose secret, previously hidden maneuvers fulfill the antisemitic stereotype, and proves the author to be properly assimilated, unlike his subject HK (https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Walter_Isaacson).

But there is more to be said about this book, which links the subjects in the title to this blog:

  1. I was aware of the crises of the 1960s-1980s mostly as filtered through Pacifica radio, an outfit controlled by Stalinists and pitched to the counter-culture. I simply had no time as a mother of small and adolescent children to pore through contending published versions of the civil rights movement or the women’s movement, let alone US diplomacy regarding arms control, China, détente with the Soviet Union, Vietnam, Cambodia, Africa, Chile, East Timor, Israel,  etc. –all subjects taken up in the Kissinger biography. Even my unique radio shows on the art world were irrelevant to the larger questions convulsing the world, and can be viewed as an extension of women’s work.
  2. The behind the scenes diplomacy uncovered by Isaacson (minus its gratuitous digs at HK) suggests that no matter what publications we may scour for an accurate account of what our government is doing, all we have to participate in as citizens is partisan propaganda of one stripe or another.

Which brings me to my first and last question: “Is there life after birth”?

That query was prompted by the Fox News Channel obsession with Planned Parenthood and the alleged chopping up of “babies” by sinister forces (although the last video is alarming and the questions raise by the Right are reasonable).

I asked my Facebook friends what are our obligations to children as parents? One would guess that there would be dozens of responses, but it is “summertime and the living is easy.” So here are my own answers, in schematic form: we owe our living children attention to their developing brains, to their maximum health, to an education in hygiene and science, especially physiology, and above all, to critical awareness of the often confusing, even impenetrable, world outside the family, which they will have to navigate on their own someday without parental guidance.

wish list

We do not owe them messages that reinforce human weakness and deference to illegitimate authority. It will take the focused effort of all of us, old and young, to rebuild the civil society that has been snatched away from us by authoritarians of many stripes.     

July 26, 2015

Masters of Sex, second wave feminism, and the ratings game

masters-and-johnson-4140196600I have written about this series before, twice. (See http://clarespark.com/2014/08/16/ferguson-mi-masters-of-sex-and-the-dilemma-of-the-white-liberal/, with link to the first one.)

The second episode the third season of Masters of Sex  threw me for a loop, so, especially in light of the controversy over Planned Parenthood, I thought I should write a blog about it.

The series about Masters and Johnson’s path breaking studies of the physiology of the human sexual response (1966) takes great liberties with the facts of their lives, in my view, because of the need to appeal to an audience which is already “liberated” but which also might retain many social conservative viewers, or sadder but wiser ex-feminists.

Michelle Ashford (b. 1960), the creator of the Showtime hit series, was hip to the sexual revolution, and appears to have taken advantage of the second wave of feminism, along with the gay movement, and the early civil rights movement, but this season she seems more attuned to broadening her audience beyond aging veterans of 60s social movements.

First, a word about the character of Virginia Masters (played by Lizzy Caplan), who is constantly billed as “ahead of her time,” because as a former night club singer, she is neither frigid, nor hung up on monogamy, but participates in non-committed sleeping around. In other words, she behaves like a single heterosexual male. (This is only attributed to ‘feminism by conservatives, for many second wave feminists were indeed doormats for men, but were more often interested in breaking into male-dominated professions and businesses.)

Michael Sheen and Lizzy Caplan

Michael Sheen and Lizzy Caplan

But this season, the chickens come to roost, and the (fictionalized) children of both chief characters are teen agers, and predictably defiant and critical of their parents’ unavailability. This causes Virginia’s underage son to enlist in the military (during Viet Nam!), and leads to comfort sex with her first husband, which leaves her pregnant, just in time for the release of the Masters and Johnson book on the physiology of the human sexual response.

Since Bill Masters (played to perfection by Michael Sheen) won’t leave his wife, Virginia remains unmarried. She tells Bill that she is about to have an abortion, but as the abortion is about to take place, she abruptly decides to bring the baby to term. (A hat tip to pro-lifers? Or a way to advance the plot, for Bill is now aghast at having a pregnant unmarried co-author who will come off as a slut, marring the respectability of their twelve-year endeavor?)

So Virginia and husband #1 remarry to save the book, much to George Johnson’s discomfort, for he wants a real re-marriage.

Now comes the part that shocked me. Perhaps under the influence of pregnancy hormones that have aroused her maternal instincts, Virginia has a fit of self-incrimination, as she declares that she was never there for her two children, and should have chosen devoted stay-at-home motherhood instead of her career. I don’t know an intelligent woman who has not had these same doubts.

Indeed, my own conclusion is that we, the gifted women, are doomed, should we want both children and the full development of our ambitions to achieve outside the home.

The episode ends with Bill driving off after looking at the new baby, a girl, and the first husband hangs around the nursery with Virginia, gazing at their new child. I sense a double triangle in the next episodes, or more likely Virginia will sleep with a new character played by Josh Charles, prompting Bill to finally leave a sexless, old-fashioned, marriage.

In real life, Masters and Johnson were married until 1991, when Bill left her. For author’s Thomas Maier’s comments on these characters see http://time.com/3880364/the-real-masters-of-sex-life-with-masters-and-johnson/. (Maier does not comment on the pandering in the Showtime series to the soft-porn audience along with hot button social movements, but does raise the possibility that Virginia never loved Bill.)

masters2

July 18, 2015

Political Correctness and Chattanooga shooting

Painting by Jeff Wilkie

Painting by Jeff Wilkie

The moderate men have done it again in generally declining to investigate a precise motive for the Chattanooga shooting, while using the word “extremist” to designate their enemies on either Left or Right.

This will be a short blog, for I have beaten this horse to death, investigating the origins of political correctness in German Romanticism, the hegemony of multiculturalism (shockingly taken up by the once anti-racist Left), and the reluctance to admit to antisemitic subtexts in our political discourses. (For one example among many see http://clarespark.com/2013/07/02/groupiness-group-think-and-race/.)

In the weekend Wall Street Journal, for instance, linguistics professor at Columbia U, John McWhorter, ostensibly a neocon, writes at length about changing meanings of curse words as if they evolved, without identifiable causes. (http://www.wsj.com/articles/how-dare-you-say-that-the-evolution-of-profanity-1437168515.) What he left out in his essay was the time-tested tactic of the liberal establishment, acting in the interests of the neutral state, to promote politeness as a tactic in bringing warring factions into line, so that artful mediators could promote social harmony and their version of stability. For these liberals, offensive language only polarizes the conflict, promoting hate, not love and mutual “understanding.”*

Image by Jesse Lenz

Image by Jesse Lenz

Even Andrew McCarthy, in a National Review piece that correctly identifies the Palestinian background of Muhammad Youssuf Abdulazeez (http://www.nationalreview.com/article/421346/chattanooga-shooting-muslim-jihad-muhammad-abdulazeez), does not identify the stakes in the widespread reticence in even suggesting that international terrorism, not some radicalized “lone wolf” was responsible for the mayhem. For we cannot suggest that all Muslims might not be agreeable to peaceful co-existence. That would evade the tenets of mandatory collectivist discourses, prompting broader investigations into individual motives, and in this bogus “lone wolf” case, polluting the dominant “moderate” view that finds moral equivalence in the Arab-Israeli conflict.

Social media, rightly or wrongly, has become the new facilitator of terrorism. Yet these media are our only route to dissent in the cultural monopolies staffed by the moderate men.

*In fairness to McWhorter, in his WSJ piece, he does historicize taboo expressions, brings up middle class mores, and mentioning that groups may not be stigmatized by outsiders, but he doesn’t go far enough. All we are left with is changing times, with examples of outdated naughty speech. This from an author frequently identified with the Republican “right-wing.”

McWhorter

July 14, 2015

“Depraved indifference” to Education Reform?

State Government Leadership Foundation come-on

State Government Leadership Foundation come-on

A dispute broke out last night on my Facebook wall regarding education reform, with some conservatives expressing abhorrence over any national control whatsoever. Instead, all deficiencies would be remedied with “local control,” as if our citizenry (so-called) really cares about schools in this “fallen world.”

I am no fan of Arne Duncan or the teachers unions. Duncan is Secretary of Education and I wrote how Harvard was honoring his appointment here (they presented him as a savior): http://clarespark.com/2010/09/22/links-to-arne-duncan-blogs/. As for teachers unions and their opposition to merit pay in tandem with their support for tenure, I got some, but insufficient, support given the gravity of the problem, for Campbell Brown’s ambitious reform program when I shared her announcement on Facebook.

Regarding Common Core, my initial fear that the humanities would disappear in favor of math and science proved groundless. I see nothing wrong with national standards and testing in math and science to map how various schools are keeping up with international competition. But teachers unions oppose close scrutiny as to teacher competence.

Social conservatives have several claims that will be criticized in this blog: 1. The problem of (progressive) education will be solved if Big Government is halted by abolishing The Department of Education; 2. Father-headed families will instill appropriate discipline (and jingoistic patriotism?) in American children.

Here are my objections, which are heated:

America is an unevenly developed country with respect to the value of education. It was only New England’s puritan tradition that fought for free public education (along with Protestant pluralism). The slave South was militantly opposed to anything that prepared their minions (including poor whites) to participate in a democracy. The New South made inroads in order to industrialize, but their bourgeois efforts toward equal opportunity were met with resistance from Bourbons and other regionalists (Agrarians).

Does local control mean that it is up to (backward states) to resist the demands of a competitive, globalized world? Are we, in any sense, a democratic republic, determined to lay the groundwork for an educated populace?

Given the uneven commitment to a “secular” education that could turn children away from their ancestors, it is understandable that “local control,” plus the stern father in the home, signifies for many the desire to keep their straying children in line, as if adolescent rebellion was some kind of new-fangled invention foisted upon them by “progressives.”

When I was an undergraduate and then a graduate student in the 1950s, the cry was for discipline and order in my required education classes. The exact content of student learning was irrelevant. It occurs to me now that there is massive confusion regarding the tasks assigned to families versus schools regarding student conduct. This was not something that was ever discussed. Rather we had nonsensical courses at Harvard (for instance) that stressed the poor and working class as a “sub-culture” that was focused on “trouble.” The less said about the unruly urban mobs and their living conditions, the better.

narc7

I find it hard to understand why persons my age or slightly younger (my Facebook friends), would be so distracted by aging and  health care that the future of their descendants takes little space in their imaginations. I wonder if they were ever attached to their offspring except as narcissistic extensions of themselves.

There may be more concern about dogs these days than kids.

Claude Joseph Bail (d.1921) painting

Claude Joseph Bail (d.1921) painting

July 11, 2015

Jobs, jobs, and less jobs

Muhammad-Ali-Quotes-on-Success-Hard-work-Life-Thoughts-Muhammad-Ali-Images-Wallpapers-Picture-PhotosAre we puppets on a string? It is striking that the would-be Presidents on the Right (whether “establishment moderate” or conservative) are all promising more “jobs” to the electorate, while entirely ignoring the labor question (assertions of exploitation, the nature of toil, labor competition between ethnicities, “races”  and genders) that has roiled the world since the beginning of the Industrial Revolution. I took it up here, because I was struck by the constant repetition of the value of “hard work.” (See http://clarespark.com/2014/02/12/is-most-work-alienating-and-boring/.)

Back in the day when I read labor history, the emphasis was on bloody strikes, Taylorism, the Haymarket Massacre, competing labor organizations, the “de-skilling” of workers, the anarchist communes of the Spanish  Republic, and the “false consciousness” that prevented “the working class” from adhering to the precepts of dialectical materialism by making the revolution that would free the world from poverty, war, and the humdrum lives led by the toiling masses.

Such talk has faded from view partly because such countries as Soviet Russia, Cuba, and Venezuela turned out to be something other than workers’ paradises. Faced with obvious failures, even “progressives” turned to “race” and “gender” as the divisions that mattered, or, even more disturbingly, are now rehabilitating “the Middle Ages” with their Good Kings, mysticism, aristocratic hierarchies and allegedly happy peasants and artisans, kept in line through benign religions. Or, the Left took up critical theory that blamed workers for consumerism (and sports) made popular by the new mass media that misled them into 20th century dictatorships.

Ukraine collective propaganda poster

Ukraine collective propaganda poster

Right-wingers have nothing to offer the working class other than “meritocracy” (i.e., upward mobility out of the class into the petit-bourgeoisie, where immigrant families are free to “work hard” and exploit their families). As for the populists, they are haters, whether of finance capital, [red] atheists (http://clarespark.com/2015/04/24/multiculturalism-vs-yid-red-spies-which-agitates-the-right/), or the Northeastern liberal establishment that goes for education reform, free trade, and regulated “socially responsible capitalism.”

Perhaps meritocracy is the best we can do. But the Republican Party should stop pretending that the labor question is a dead letter. As for the opposite party that ostensibly celebrates “the Common Man” while favoring teachers unions over kids, they deserve all the terrible things that are about to happen to this country in the Age of Trump.

The Labor Question (vintage postcard)

The Labor Question (vintage postcard)

July 9, 2015

Harvard’s advocacy of “simplicity” as remedy for failing schools

Leadershipfreak come-on

Leadershipfreak come-on

Education reform hasn’t changed much on the “Left” despite a few conservatives railing against “Common Core.” But Harvard’s Graduate School of Education (which I attended 1958-59), isn’t worried about the lamentable and fragmented state of public education, but is suggesting “simplicity” as the winning answer. Even Diane Ravitch, an advocate for teachers unions lately, is too hard for them:

[Ed, summer issue 2015, author Lory Hough:] Education isn’t easy. In fact, in its formal state, it’s probably one of the most complex, challenging things we do in our society, especially now, given the growing diversity of our student body and greater amounts of information students are expected to know. As Diane Ravitch wrote a few years ago in the Los Angeles Times, “There are no simple solutions, no miracle cures to those problems. Education is a slow, arduous process that requires the work of willing students, dedicated teachers, and supportive families, as well as a coherent curriculum.” Yet, does it always need to be so complex? [My emph. The opening salvo goes on to hold up Steve Jobs as role model.]

Yes, this paean to progressive clarity was published by one of the two most prestigious schools of graduate education in the country (the other being Columbia U.).  Here is a complete list of the headlines that top 21 multi-colored boxes (blue, green, turquoise, grey) in the article that lauds simple solutions to admittedly complex problems; they are listed in order of appearance:

“Be Kind”; “Start The High School Day Later”; “Teach Students To Ask Their Own Questions”; “Simplify The Financial Aid Form”; “Slow Down”; “Make Meetings More Useful”; “Use Checklists”; “Greet People Warmly”; “Let Students Move”; “Revamp The Open House”; Replace Timeout  With A Safe Place”; “Find Similarities”; “Use Texting To Keep College-Bound Students On Track”; “Help With Transportation”; “Include Dads”; “Install A Buddy Bench”; “Create Student Crews”; “Ask Outside Groups For Help”; “Use Personal Stories To Motivate Students”; “Make Space Flexible”.

A large box illustrated with a light bulb invites interactivity: “What simple ideas have you found that work? Link to this article on Facebook or Twitter and post your thoughts!”

I wish I could say that I am making all this up. For my prior blogs on Diane Ravitch and other writers on reform, see http://clarespark.com/2012/05/03/index-to-blogs-on-education-reform/. They are assuredly too complicated for most readers.

9/12/2012 West Chicago teachers' strike

9/12/2012 West Chicago teachers’ strike

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