YDS: The Clare Spark Blog

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): https://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 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 https://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

July 27, 2013

O’Reilly’s riff on ‘race’ relations

MLKJrReacting in part to the uproar over the George Zimmerman verdict, Bill O’Reilly (“number one in cable news”) started the week of July 22, 2013 with an outraged “talking point memo” on the subject of the black family and its disintegration, blaming the current polarization over the jury’s decision to aquit CZ on “’73% illegitimacy” in the ‘African-American’ population. O’Reilly’s causation is typical of culture wars argumentation. Bring the strong father back, and “African-American” culture will right itself again.

The passion, even anger, of his talking points made news all week on Fox News Channel. On Thursday, in the interests of fairness and balance, he invited an assistant professor of sociology and Black Studies from CCNY,  R. L’heureux Lewis-McCoy.  The youthful professor contradicted the notion that fatherlessness caused poverty and crime, but insisted that poverty and lack of access to jobs was the cause of the disintegration of the black family. In other words, O’Reilly had a cultural explanation for the [unruly] black population, while the sociologist offered an economic explanation to explain black problems, (The segment can be viewed here: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=pYFS_qon3zs. It starts out concerned with a hip-hop artist and Al Sharpton, but at about two and a half minutes in, pivots to a discussion of the disintegrating, tattoo-loving black family. O’Reilly gave the professor a “D” for not answering a question to his liking.)

The notion of the father-directed nuclear family as the fundamental unit of society providing for stability is a throwback to the medieval order, when peasant fathers remained at home, directing the distribution of resources. “Exit the [family] king” under an advanced industrial society, and women have too much power over young males who are thereby feminized and may go homo, another fear of culture warriors. Enter the now fashionable argot that identifies all public health initiatives as vile offshoots of “the nanny state.” (For details on Ionesco’s play Exit The King see http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Exit_the_King.)

On the Tuesday (July 23, 2013) edition of The Factor, trained psychiatrist Charles Krauthammer straight out told O’Reilly that not all problems could be solved, Surely he was thinking about the family and its proposed O’Reilly remedy: no illegitimacy and marriage. As I have suggested on this website, intact families are no panacea, but rather are the site of lifelong ambivalence or worse, owing to sibling rivalry, prolonged attachment to the parent of the opposite sex, and hard-to-control instinctive aggression identified by the now stigmatized Freud and his followers.  Indeed, social psychologists attached to the New Deal (such as Henry A. Murray) fretted about mother-son attachments as leading to an overactive social conscience that could go all the way to communism. (See https://clarespark.com/2009/11/07/he-loves-his-mommy-too-much/, and https://clarespark.com/2010/02/16/nazi-sykewar-american-style-part-two/, plus others in this series: https://clarespark.com/2010/04/18/links-to-nazi-sykewar-american-style/.)

I will say this for the efficacy of having a father in the home. Single mothers, no matter how many children, face an exhausting challenge. A modern male who is willing to take part in family life, including child care and housework, is a blessing.

But the presence of both parents in the family constellation is no guarantee that children will achieve upward mobility or avoid a life of crime. Bill O’Reilly, like other Fox anchors, has replicated the terms advocated by multiculturalists (“African-American Community”), avoiding the thorny questions concerning welfare policies, education reform, and the teaching of parenting skills and other useful mental health concepts. [I added welfare policies to this blog in light of Joe Nicolosi’s comments below.]

Such attention to factors other than father-headed families may be a bridge too far for the employees of Rupert Murdoch.

race

May 26, 2013

Eva Moskowitz and the Charter School Movement

Eva Moskowitz

Eva Moskowitz

Last week I attended the first benefit gala for the Success Academy Charter schools initiated by Eva Moskowitz. My son Daniel S. Loeb was being honored, and Chris Christie, Governor of the State of New Jersey was the keynote speaker. Wall Street heavies and some major Republicans were present by the hundreds, as were many of the young principals of the various Charter Schools.

The Governor said flat out that if we did not rescue America’s public schools, the republic was finished, and I could not agree with him more. Christie, like many other activists on behalf of quality free education for all, sees the teachers unions as the chief obstacle to achieving this goal. Sadly, teachers unions have defended teachers, no matter how inept and unqualified, at the expense of learners in our country. Indeed, the teachers unions are major supporters of the Democratic Party, and numerous authors have identified the powerful wealthy Democrats (e.g. Mark Zuckerberg, Bill and Melinda Gates) who have poured wasted money into ed reform, for none of these billionaires will go up against the teachers unions or their defender Diane Ravitch. (For my blogs on Ravitch and Democratic Party reformers see https://clarespark.com/2012/05/03/index-to-blogs-on-education-reform/ Steve Brill’s book is mostly about Eva M. and worries that she will burn out. Brill, a Democrat, thinks that Randi Weingarten can be reformed!)

I find it very mysterious why the high priority given to free public education by Governor Christie and Dan Loeb (like Charles Sumner and other enlightened Americans who came before us), is not widely shared. One can understand why unqualified, underperforming teachers defend tenure and pensions, but how to account for the indifference of parents and grandparents, or of all citizens, many of whom complain about the great dumbing down of our culture and sense an irreversible decline of American leadership in the world?

A brief recollection: when I moved to Los Angeles in 1959, I taught chemistry and biology at Los Angeles High School. Noting that there were no after-school clubs like the one I enjoyed at Forest High School in Queens, New York, I proposed a Philosophy Club, with much student support (and LA High at the time was black, brown, Asian, and Jewish mostly). I was called “that commie Jew from the East” in one anonymous letter deposited in my mailbox, which appalled me as I was mostly apolitical at that time. I recall that my best student was a black boy in chemistry. I never thought that there was anything wrong with the brains of my “colored” students, either in Los Angeles or at Jamaica High School in Long Island where I had taught in the Spring semester of 1958. Eva Moskowitz’s charter schools in NYC have borne out my views that lazy teachers and inadequate expectations for performance of minority children, not racial differences in intelligence, are responsible for low graduation rates and poor student performance in inner city schools in America.

Here is how Wikipedia describes the pioneering efforts of Eva Moskowitz: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Eva_Moskowitz

And here are the objectives of Moskowitz’s “lesson plan” in a booklet handed out to all attendees of this inspirational gala on May 22, 2013:

[Item:] Make schools magical places—warm, colorful, joyous—where the curriculum is rigorous, the pace is fast, the bar is high, and boredom is banished.

[Item:] Inspire kids to read, to write, to imagine, to build, to invent, to work, to think. [Eva told me once that early on, students read poems and extract the message of the poem: could anything be better than reading comprehension, including understanding the subtext and messages of great literature?]

[Item:] Invest in excellent teaching, with support and coaching and an unprecedented commitment to professional development.

[Item:] Introduce children to the creative disciplines and elations of art.

[Item:] Enlist parents as partners in schooling and as advocates for education reform.

[Item:] Teach chess and daily discovery-based science, so that scholars grow up to find better ways forward.

[Item:] Give every child access to great public schools and provide every family with great educational choices.

[Item:] Empower a generation of children to achieve their dreams.

[Item:] Transform a nation at risk to a nation of hope and opportunity.

[Item:] Change public education—for good.

In New York State testing, this is how Success Academy Charter Schools have performed: 96% passed 2012 NYS Math Exam; 88% passed 2012 English Exam; 100% passed 2011 Science Exam. In Math, English, and Science, Eva’s schools were beaten only by Anderson, “the most selective Gifted and Talented public school in NYC.”

For more sources on this subject, see the following references:

http://www.nytimes.com/2013/05/12/nyregion/seeking-teachers-support-mayoral-candidates-pledge-education-reform.html?ref=evasmoskowitz&_r=0

http://www.nj.com/politics/index.ssf/2013/04/christie_town_hall_raritan_val.html

http://socialistworker.org/2009/11/13/charter-school-charade ( A Trotskyist organization attacks Eva Moskowitz and her project.)

Success Academy

April 26, 2013

The television season goes Dark

The-following-posterI understand that television is not considered to be other than escapist entertainment, and not a business with pretensions to artiness or literariness, but there are many critics who treat its more upscale offerings with the reverence once reserved to Balzac (for instance see the indefatigable Terri Gross in her new interview with Matthew Weiner, creator of MAD MEN: in the part I heard she was insisting that Don Draper has a “death wish”).

As the 2012-2013 season draws to a close, I must say that I can’t remember a time when popular entertainment was as ideological driven or death-obsessed. I admit to not understanding the adolescent craze for vampires or zombies, though I have my suspicions of deranged right-wing Romanticism and/or the adolescent desire to irritate parents. But I do get the populist flavor, laced with morbidity, of the “better” television series, especially those directed to a more upscale, presumably educated audience.

Lest I be misunderstood, I am not nostalgic for the television fare of the 1950s and 1960s, with its frequently inane glorification of the ordinary folksy American family, rural or urban. The material introduced in response to 1960s and 1970s uproars was critical, and though usually anti-American and anti-establishment, was at least well-written, brilliantly acted, and interesting to decode for its (typically populist) politics. Nor do I fail to detect the ideology in the theater popular when I was growing up: at least it was well meaning, brilliantly written, conceived, and performed—and relatively anti-racist.

But what to make of such paranoia-inducing recent offerings as the romantic necrophiliac THE FOLLOWING (internet gossip reports it renewed!), or the ongoing goriness in CRIMINAL MINDS, or the hatred of hedge fund managers profiting off evil drug companies as displayed in the last episode of PERSON OF INTEREST, or amoral rich people as were evident in DECEPTION, now in SCANDAL (the last episode particularly horrifying), MAD MEN, REVENGE, and even the apparently harmless and well-written THE GOOD WIFE, a love triangle that manages to mostly evade the possibly unparalleled corruption of  Democratic Chicago, while “Alicia” wavers between family and sex? (I have been watching reruns of the Dick Wolf generated LAW AND ORDER: CRIMINAL INTENT, and find the same targets, often Jews, who are either the perps, or who as doctors and lawyers are equally loathsome and corrupt. In one episode, “the Jewish mob” is identified as the most “vicious” of all: oh really?). Add to that the swipes at Mossad in the ever-popular NCIS, and you have the picture. Nouveaux riches and the government enforcers (cops, government regulators, other bureaucrats, CIA, etc.) whom the moneybags obviously control in their own depraved interest, are the chief subjects of the most watched television shows. The poster for THE FOLLOWING (illustrated) shows the dual character of those who serve “law and order.” “Order” for whom? is clearly implied as Bacon and Purefoy are halves of one whole, following Poe’s “William Wilson” in its doppelgänger conception, perhaps a major conceit in the imagination of television writers. And don’t be fooled by the poster for THE FOLLOWING. “Joe Collins” (James Purefoy) is clearly the protagonist, and he stepped out of character in the most recent episode to plug Green living. Why not Kevin Bacon, who barely appears in the series, and whose character is an alcoholic to boot?

Are there any shows with family values? So far, BLUE BLOODS takes the prize. Irreproachably Irish Catholic and upright, the patriarchal Reagan family holds together in contrast to the decadent cities it valiantly disciplines. Even THE MENTALIST is terror gothic in spirit, and clearly plays on fears of the French Revolution, while teasing its faithful viewers that “Patrick Jane” is actually serial killer Red John, rather than someone likely to be very high up in the government. It too is paranoia inducing. Shame on you Bruno Heller, who should know better.

And SMASH, the backstage story of a Broadway musical, will not likely be renewed, while its writing and music to these ears are downright embarrassing. What a hollow victory for hip movement culture, with its glorification of the ever-misunderstood and pathetic Marilyn Monroe.  On to off-Broadway, inter-racial understanding, and the offbeat rock musical and heterosexual and homosexual pairing off. On television, racism/miscegenation has disappeared if you sing and dance well enough. Perhaps the same thing can be said for new Broadway shows, either PC or living off the bones of its ancestors.

Meanwhile, few in show business pay attention to education reform, the illicit power of the teachers unions, and their relentless, media-supported attempts to undermine the educations of real black and brown children in urban ghettoes and elsewhere. Try to find a decent public school in NYC or Los Angeles, homes of those who write and produce the mindless (though technically advanced) shows I have listed above.

Now tell me the condition of our urban schools is not racist in the extreme. The better historians lament the world wide indifference as the Holocaust and other horrors proceeded in the 1930s and 1940s, while today the hippest among us wallow in gonzo ressentiment, apocalypse, the undead, blood and gore. Who is indifferent now? Should we blame the audience, who allegedly want this polluted fare?

Is the great American experiment going down? If popular culture is any indication, the answer is “you betcha.” Who needs a Fifth Column or other demonic forces when you have the entertainment industry?

[I have blogged about most of the tv shows mentioned here and others: see https://clarespark.com/2012/03/16/index-to-blogs-on-popular-tv-shows/.]

good wife cast pic chris noth 2 season 2

April 21, 2013

Fascism: what it is, what it is not

obama_change_hitler_lenin-mdm-e1318046441364When either political party or the alienated OWS crowd demonstrates, inevitably there will be a few Hitler signs among the various groups, at which point mass indignation sets in, with finger pointing and squeals: how dare you accuse me or my group of such a horrible affiliation! Everyone who gets angry is correct, and the carriers of the Hitler signs probably are angry too, but are also uneducated about the sources of “fascism” or “Nazism” or (in the case of Franco-dominated nationalist Spain, what is sometimes called “clerical fascism”).

There is massive confusion in both political parties about the nature of “fascism” so this blog tries to review European and American history from the Enlightenment to the present and bring some clarity to the matter. I apologize in advance for the compressed and reductive sentences that follow, but I will be close enough in my analysis.

Start with the invention of the printing press in the 16th century. This matters because 1. Mass literacy was enabled for the first time; and 2. The 20th century dictatorships were frequently blamed by conservatives on mass culture enabled by literacy and then the radio, movies, and television. Self-educated persons (autodidacts) have been the target of elites threatened with dispossession since ordinary people were first able to argue with their “betters” –who had previously interposed themselves between reader and printed page to tell the “lower orders” what the texts actually said. (Elites are still doing it, but now most have Ph.D.s in the humanities.)

The scientific revolution of the 17th century only made matters worse for elites. Now empiricism and worldliness seemed to have pushed mysticism and other-worldliness off the historical stage. The following “enlightenment” produced different results in different countries. England and France took one path, while Germany, under the name of Enlightenment, preserved mysticism and the related notions of “roots”, “national character,” and “Zeitgeist” (the spirit of an age).

The Industrial Revolution, made possible by the deists and “mechanical materialists” of the Enlightenment, terrified all previous ruling classes and institutions, for a numerous and skilled new industrial working class threatened to challenge their dominance. Lords and ladies did not know how to manage machines, and many made common cause with the industrial bourgeoisie to keep the new workers in harness. The Social Gospel in America, like its European counterparts (e.g. Bismarck’s social insurance), was aimed to alleviate the worst working conditions, to avoid dispossession by a revolutionary mob, one that could be inspired by either anarchism or communism, both strong in the 19th century, and both products of the French Revolution.

This is not a guillotine

This is not a guillotine

(By comparison, the American Revolution was a walk in the park, and tended to breed populists, angry debtors, or small utopian experiments limited by middle class values, as opposed to European socialism or anarchism theoretically grounded in Marx or Bakunin.)

Where we are so far: Confronted by a new, potentially dangerous class, European elites dreamed up ways to co-opt and contain their potential usurpers. One of their most potent weapons, apart from the welfare state, was the earlier conception of organic nationalism, a contribution of the Germans in league with ultraconservative opponents to Jacobinism, then to Napoleon. 19th century culture was characterized by insurgent nationalism, with inspiration taken from folk cultures. Progressivism in both America and Europe was an elite innovation that followed Germany in its top-down structure of buying off or co-opting the working class. It was the middle class professions who were designated and trained to keep the masses in line—as “healers,” bureaucrats, teachers, lawyers, intellectuals in the new media.

Enabled by the Great War, the Soviet coup of October 1917 was the event that spawned all future developments in the world. Its centrality to subsequent world history cannot be exaggerated, and all the right-wing movements that followed reacted to the phantasm of working-class dictatorship, including fascism in Italy, then the weak Weimar Republic (social democratic), then the conservative nationalists who put Hitler in power in Germany to stop communism in that country, then the Franco-led rebellion against the social democratic Spanish Republic. Each of these fascisms is distinct from the others, was rooted in European history, and cannot be transposed into the present, except for tiny fringe groups, annoying but of little consequence (with the exception of radical Nazified Islam, which is no fringe element).

LaRouche demonstration sign

LaRouche demonstration sign

Many conservatives in America, particularly the organic nationalists, want to pin Nazism on the Left, because of the word “socialist” in the name of the Nazi Party (Nationalist Socialist Workers Party). (For what “Socialist” meant to Nazis see https://clarespark.com/2010/02/18/nazi-sykewar-american-style-part-four/,)This misconstrues what socialism meant to Hitler and his associates. “Socialist” referred to self-sacrifice for the sake of the “people’s community” for the Nazi conception of the state was Aryan: i.e., racially homogeneous and purified of [anti-social, individualistic] Jews. And Jews were held to be the embodiment of capitalist greed. By the late 1930s, the coalition between Nazis and conservative nationalists was broken, laying the groundwork for the Army revolt in the 1940s (the last gasp of conservative nationalism), and crushed by Hitler.

All three of the major fascisms were mystical and statist, and took the “Prussian Road” (state-controlled) to modernization. However, the various fascisms cannot be simply equated with communism, which gained many adherents as the culmination of progress and the final emancipation of the individual. For the various fascisms, progress was a bourgeois trick that led to uppity behavior in the working class, and there was much in these fascist cultures that leaned back toward bygone ages, medievalism and the Roman Empire, to be precise, whereas communism was future-oriented.

Take this example from one Spanish fascist calling for the “integrated state”: the speaker is Calvo Sotelo, the monarchist leader of those opposing the democratic Spanish constitution of 1931: “Against this sterile state I am proposing the integrated state, which will bring economic justice, and which will say with due authority: ‘no more strikes, no more lock-outs, no more usury, no more capitalist abuses, no more starvation wages, no more political salaries gained by a happy accident [pensions], no more anarchic liberty, no more criminal conspiracies against full production’. The national production will be for the benefit of all classes, all parties, all interests. This state many may call fascist; if this be indeed the fascist state, then I, who believe in it, proudly declare myself a fascist!” [quoted in Hugh Thomas, The Spanish Civil War, pp. 7-8]

As I have written before here, it was social democrats that distanced themselves from fascism, by mischievously equating communism and fascism/Nazism. Social democrats (today, the left-wing of the Democratic Party in America) disguise their own statism by declaring themselves anything but “totalitarian.”  But insofar as they copy the organic nationalism that enabled fascism, or impose a multicultural, covertly racist, discourse in public space, the social democrats may be viewed, as I do, as proto-fascist. (See https://clarespark.com/2012/09/05/proto-fascism-and-the-democrat-peoples-community/, or https://clarespark.com/2011/02/10/multiculturalism-cui-bono/.)

We aren’t in an American variant of fascism yet. We still have two capitalist parties confronting one another, but with contrasting strategies for wealth creation: one is derived from Keynes, the other from von Mises, Hayek, and the Friedmans. We still have the Constitution and the various Amendments. That some opinion-leaders in each party are capable of calling their opponents totalitarians or fascists, is a symptom of their continued domination of mass education. Someone has to call them on it, and I have tried to do that here. Education reform that fails to outline the history I have summed up here is complicit with reaction.

We still have a working class majority along with a middle-class that can either torture their students or clients with half-truths, or could emancipate them with a proper political education, and both these classes remain up for grabs.

Where they go, goes liberty. (For the difficulties of defining “liberty” see https://clarespark.com/2016/03/17/what-does-liberty-signify/).

 

November 9, 2012

“Race” and the problem of “inclusion”

Filed under: Uncategorized — clarelspark @ 7:10 pm
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Dee Dee Benkie

Amidst the varying postmortems on an election disastrous for conservatives and Republicans, one theme is debated, but poorly. On November 8, 2012, the O’Reilly show was guest hosted by Laura Ingraham, who grumbled about “bean counting” to make the Republican party more inclusive, as one guest, Dee Dee Benkie, seemed to be suggesting (though Benkie was thinking mostly about women). But adding female or black and brown faces to the optics of the Republican Party will not solve a much deeper challenge: the curriculum that teaches  children to hate our country, and to seek Democratic Party [pseudo-solutions] to achieve “social justice.” Personally, I believe in social justice, but it can only come about through a thoughtful reform of the curriculum in all our schools, and it must tell the truth about the American past, which is a mixed bag of glorious achievement and loathsome discrimination, exploitation, and oppression. We should not pretend otherwise, unless we want to look like amnesiac opportunists.

On the last three blogs (https://clarespark.com/2012/11/07/capitalism-is-on-the-line/, https://clarespark.com/2012/11/08/the-demographic-change-explanation-is-racist/, https://clarespark.com/2012/11/08/the-magical-power-of-negroes-and-other-beautiful-people/)  I developed the themes of race and racism, perhaps the most relevant problem in our political culture. The progressives (whose racism was once well known) have co-opted anti-racist forces through a version of “inclusion” that spells the end of rational politics and pushes us down the path to total disintegration as a polity:

1. Separatist Black Studies programs that mobilized even more hatred against the “white” oppressor, thus reinforcing the notion of history as above all, racial struggle; and

2. Strategic tokenism. Window dressing that gave a rainbow aura to the Democratic coalition, even as it failed to address the curriculum that should have been dispensing such tools to all students that would aid in their upward mobility, not to speak of an accurate account of U.S. history, which is more complicated than the current curricula would have it. (Where, for instance, is Charles Sumner or Ralph Bunche today?) Above all, it allowed black liberation theology to annex the integrationist approach of Martin Luther King Jr. to the cause of black supremacy. This has gone relatively unnoticed by the white majority, but black antisemitism and hatred of “Whitey” is worse than ever, with many black adherents to the Nation of Islam.

3. The progressives put forth a version of  American and European history that described the West as essentially racist, sexist, classist, and ecocidal. Their alternative was the racialist/fascist notion of pan-Africanism, reflected in the favored term of African-American for black people. Instead of defining American nationality as equality under the law for rich and poor alike, American nationality was now hyphenated along racial or ethnic categories: there are Mexican-Americans, Jewish-Americans, Asian-Americans, etc. This is not only a betrayal of the Constitution, but a route to hopeless disunity and a thoroughly racialist discourse. This move is not only bogus, but fatal to everything we hold dear as unhyphenated Americans. (For a related blog see https://clarespark.com/2010/01/02/jottings-on-the-culture-wars-both-sides-are-wrong/.)

Ralph Bunche, American

September 16, 2012

Thought Crimes

During the High Holy Days, Jews are supposed to engage in strenuous self-examination. Even as a secular Jew, the solemnity and moral obligation of this time impels me to look inside and make reparations to those I may have neglected or lied to or otherwise misled as to my deep inner beliefs or opinions.

My thought crimes that everyone already knows about:

a. The subject of antisemitism is only partly understood, even by Jews and their friends;

b. The exact techniques of populist demagoguery always rely on an underlying antisemitic set of assumptions about “the money power.” If we knew even the basics of finance and economic history, the bogey man of Wall Street would disintegrate;

c. I enjoy Ayn Rand’s novels with some reservations (masochistic sex), but given her particular history, I brush them aside;

d. Even if there was “school choice” there is no guarantee that students would be prepared for citizenship, given the curricula in vogue, which do not begin to teach freedom of thought, dominated as they are by authoritarian, under-educated, or wimpy progressives;

e. Progressivism and communism are now so interpenetrating that it is hard to tell where Democrats leave off and hard leftists begin. Those scholars who have studied communist influence in the US and who think that the Reds are no longer relevant are mistaken;

f. Although left-wing anarchists and right-wing anarchists would appear to be immiscible, they are both counter-culture and probably acting out rebellion against the rules set by their parents. Anti-capitalism vs. anarcho-capitalism may not be as significant as enjoyment in prolonged tantrums;

g. Much of what passes for high art is primitivist, or at times, expresses nostalgia for an agrarian past that lacked cities, machines, and annoying Jews who make you think too much;

h. The sexual revolution of the 1960s on has been a disaster for most women, who have bought into the regnant masochism and degradation of our gender;

i. Freud is more relevant than ever, yet rarely understood: though a professed atheist, he is still too Jewish;

j. Many workers continue to be exploited and/or have boring, even dangerous jobs.

Thought crimes that nobody knows about:

a. People should not have children if they can’t support them. If marriages break down, the couples should stay together in most cases for the sake of family stability: children hate change and often are caught between parents, with bad life-long after-effects;

b. Some of the authors and artists I most admire are turning out to be either romantic rebels or reactionaries or downright offensive and I don’t care: I will defend their freedom of expression as long as I am breathing;

c. Being at odds with most of the world is downright fun. John Dos Passos admitted this in his old age (see Century’s Ebb), and I recognized my own proclivities. Call me joyfully alienated; (One relative through marriage rightly suspects me of these contrarian tendencies.)

d. As long as I am on hot on the trail of a new (for me) miscreant or set of ‘em, I am happy;

e. Nothing more exciting than changing my mind or reconfiguring a picture of the world: to see with fresh eyes. While I was making radio documentaries, was heard to say that a good edit was way better than sex. Collage will do that for you;

f. I was invited to submit a proposal for a class I would teach in the Los Angeles Woman’s Building. I submitted this title and nothing else: “PUNS KEY TO SECRET ORDER IN THE UNIVERSE.” No one signed up and I didn’t care.

May 3, 2012

Index to blogs on education reform

ad for Spinoza toy

This series of blogs not only reviews  recent work on the reform of our education system, but points out disagreements in what is wrongly considered to be a unified establishment. Some of the blogs also insist upon the materialist epistemology of the Constitution. Culture warriors take note!

https://clarespark.com/2010/09/22/links-to-arne-duncan-blogs/

https://clarespark.com/2009/10/01/perfectly-progressive-parenthood/

https://clarespark.com/2009/09/06/the-hebraic-american-landscape-sublime-or-despotic/

https://clarespark.com/2010/01/02/jottings-on-the-culture-wars-both-sides-are-wrong/

https://clarespark.com/2010/06/15/the-classics-as-antidote-to-science-education/

https://clarespark.com/2011/08/03/jobs-program-for-education-reformers-or-the-new-prometheus/

https://clarespark.com/2012/01/21/the-persistence-of-white-racism/

https://clarespark.com/2011/08/31/review-steven-brills-class-warfare/ (Read this one first)

https://clarespark.com/2011/05/12/the-great-common-goes-to-the-white-house/

https://clarespark.com/2011/05/16/questions-for-education-reformers/

https://clarespark.com/2011/06/23/the-u-s-history-establishment-divided-and-failing/ (my correspondence with Ravitch, contrasting Ravitch with Gary Nash)

https://clarespark.com/2011/05/28/who-is-a-racist-now-2/ (retitled Diane Ravitch and the higher moderation)

https://clarespark.com/2011/07/17/literary-criticism-ravitch-variant/.

https://clarespark.com/2011/10/09/vox-populi-vox-big-brother/ (A review of Terry M. Moe’s new book)

https://clarespark.com/2012/01/28/popular-sovereignty-on-the-ropes/.

https://clarespark.com/2012/03/22/3760/ (On the great dumbing down)

https://clarespark.com/2012/01/15/prometheus-bound-but-good/

https://clarespark.com/2012/09/19/bullies/

https://clarespark.com/2012/11/09/race-and-the-problem-of-inclusion/

https://clarespark.com/2013/01/05/american-fascism-and-the-future-of-english-and-american-literature/ (On Common Core curriculum)

https://clarespark.com/2013/02/27/american-exceptionalism-retold/

https://clarespark.com/2011/01/26/obama-and-the-rhetoric-of-the-political-family/

https://clarespark.com/2014/02/01/harvard-ed-school-leads-in-vaguely-dumbing-down/

https://clarespark.com/2015/07/09/harvards-advocacy-of-simplicity-as-remedy-for-failing-schools/

https://clarespark.com/2015/07/14/depraved-indifference-to-education-reform/

Arne Duncan and Obama at play

March 14, 2012

History as trauma

Bruce Bartlett

This blog started out as a meditation on Bruce Bartlett’s Wrong on Race: The Democratic Party’s Buried Past (Palgrave Macmillan, 2008). (For a conversation between the author and Clarence Page, see http://www.c-spanvideo.org/program/204475-1.] A better discussion is here: http://bloggingheads.tv/videos/1494. Glenn C. Loury, professor of economics at Brown University is a far sharper partner to Bartlett, and enunciates the same take on elite micromanagement of racial politics in the universities as the views advanced on my website. For a graduation speech that explicates Loury’s view of “identity” see http://today.brown.edu/articles/2008/09/loury.)

Bruce Bartlett has been a widely read policy adviser to the Republican Party; he says that he has libertarian leanings; he seems to have switched to the Democratic Party recently. But in the very last words of his history of the close ties of the Democratic Party with white supremacist doctrines, he writes “The purpose of this book is to encourage Republicans to compete for the black vote and at the same time show blacks why they should be receptive if Republicans should ask for a hearing. Blacks deserve better than being pawns in the political game. It is very much in their interest to be players. But that won’t happen unless they are willing to loosen the ties that bind them almost exclusively to the Democratic Party, the party to which their greatest oppressors belonged (p. 194).

This blog attempts to complicate Bartlett’s proposed outreach to black Americans by the Republican Party with some thoughts gleaned from another book that I have been reading: Robert C. Scaer, M.D., The Body Bears the Burden: Trauma, Dissociation, and Disease, second ed. (Routledge, 2007). Dr. Scaer, a neurologist, lays out a materialist explanation for psychogenic illnesses that stem from earlier traumas, such as military combat, assault, rape, incest, spousal abuse, lack of mother-child bonding, child abuse, torture, messy divorces, and other stressors that may be re-enacted even when the traumatized individual suffers from mild shocks, such as whiplash. Scaer does not mention the teaching of history as one possible source of trauma, but I have observed in my own grandchildren that when such horrors as chattel slavery in the American South are taught at an inappropriately early age, the student may be terrified to the point of trauma; s/he can find no safe place to hide from the predator, especially when leftists proclaim that white supremacy will endure until there is a violent overthrow of the status quo. And the same may be said of other events in U.S. and world history: the destruction of indigenous peoples, or the mass death that was enabled by mechanized warfare, starting with the American Civil War. And of course, the teaching of the Holocaust is another potentially traumatizing practice. Add to these gothic moments, the impending destruction of the environment advanced by deep ecologists.

In Bartlett’s book, his notion of reparations suggests free college scholarships to the descendants of slaves, but he does not consider teaching the dubious origin of race theory itself as a strategy. I remind  the reader of my blogs that “race” is a social construction, not an objective fact. Race thinking is filled with nonsense such as the “one-drop” rule for blackness. We are all in the same species, whatever the variation in physical characteristics. What racists do is to claim that “race,” a collective category, predicts mental and emotional characteristics, usually within a hierarchy. Who turns out to be the top dog depends on the group constructing the hierarchy. For a German Romantic’s view of the hierarchy see https://clarespark.com/2010/10/18/the-dialectic-of-multiculturalism-helvetius-herder-fichte/. Obviously, a Chinese or Japanese nationalist would have a different arrangement of the hierarchy of races, as would Pan-African nationalists such as James Cone (https://clarespark.com/2009/10/31/the-offing-of-martin-luther-king-jr-and-ralph-bunche/).   If you watch the dialogue between Glenn C. Loury and Bruce Bartlett, cited above, you will hear Loury criticize the notion of race as such.

Glenn C. Loury

I don’t look to ultra-social conservatives in the Republican Party to consider trauma or to deploy any other toolbox that smells like neo-Freudianism, for such believers are not worldly, in contrast to Dr. Scaer and other mental health professionals. Indeed, as fundamentalists, these denizens of the far Right are not in history at all, for this world is but the prelude to a better one, and disasters are part of God’s plan. (See https://clarespark.com/2009/07/04/unfinished-revolutions-and-contested-notions-of-identity/.) It is no accident that the impetus for education reform through school choice is emanating from within the Democratic Party (though Milton Friedman suggested it long ago), with little encouragement from social conservatives demanding local control and the choice of a religious education. For public schools are a scary site that could alienate the child of the ultra-conservative from the family of origin. What all of us need to do, whether we are of the [modernized] Center Right, or Independents or Liberals, is to think of the curriculum as a mine field when we attempt to teach the dark side of human history. I could have entitled this blog “Freezing fear in the classroom.” We may be traumatizing and re-traumatizing our children, not willfully, but as a side effect of our ignorance of the effect of the emotions on physical health; an ignorance that subsequently diminishes our capacity to be rational actors in a representative republic. In our attempts to educate the young are we teaching learned helplessness? For the youngster cannot change the awful past we transmit with the best of intentions.

Perhaps the current vogue for vampires, zombies, and other terrifying monsters (e.g. wolverines as illustrated), is a defense mechanism by adolescents and pre-teens and even younger children; i.e., identifying with the cruel individuals and events that they can never master in their own real lives. But this is a defense only, and does not get us closer to releasing the terrors that remain locked within the psyche, and that might be among the potential cause(s) for auto-immune diseases. Lest anyone be discouraged by this blog: Dr. Scaer argues that medicine is still in its infancy. It is a great advance in human history that we are learning so much about the physiology of stress, as opposed to relying upon supernatural explanations for the ups and downs of living. Perhaps one strategy to mitigate learned helplessness (not within the scope of Scaer’s book)  is to relate through education and through popular and high culture how both inviduals and groups have banded together to overcome threats to survival. Call such tactics a promising form of preventive medicine. For part 2 of this essay, see https://clarespark.com/2012/03/18/history-as-trauma-2-rosebud-version/.

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