The Clare Spark Blog

February 2, 2016

Bernie’s kids

Maxfield Parrish painting

Maxfield Parrish painting

(Update, 7-26-16: Much of this blog remains accurate and relevant, but I should have emphasized the populism of Bernie’s youthful supporters. Since so many have been educated by soi disant “leftists”, I propose that either the Popular Front is still in favor, or the “leftist” professoriate is, in practice, social democratic and anti-semitic.)

I am wondering if we should reorganize the way we think about “class” in America.

In a media, political, and academic environment that confuses the working class with the “middle class,” and calls everyone who is not a “moderate” or a “conservative” a leftist, it seems to me that we should consider the young people that turn out for Bernie Sanders as a group unto itself, with the analysis appropriate to its numbers.

First, there is the obvious appeal to the Sanders platform: soaking the “rich” (with possible repercussions for the “middle class” parents of his enthused following; free college; fully socialized medicine; and even legalization of marijuana (http://feelthebern.org/bernie-sanders-on-drug-policy/). I.e., a prolonged childhood with lifelong “sticking it” to parents who hoped that their kids would someday grow up and assume adult responsibilities. Here we have all the elements of generational conflict.

But more, second, there is the education that young people have experienced. From popular culture to both public and private schools, their education has been either rebellious (leaning toward anarchism: https://clarespark.com/2013/04/16/blogs-on-anarchismpunkprimitivism/) or “progressive,” dumbed down and forgetful of the fierce and instructive debates that energized the Reformation, the Enlightenment, and the 1930s, when only the very young and the very old failed to distinguish between communism, right-wing social democrats, and FDR’s “progressive” version of moderate conservatism.

Many an academic has suggested that “youth revolt” was instrumental in the rise of the Nazi party after the Great War. I am not comparing Sanders to a young Hitler, but rather to a frightening pied piper, leading his young followers over a cliff, while promising new and better solidarities.

Young Sanders as Mayor of Burlington, Vt.

Young Sanders as Mayor of Burlington, Vt.

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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

December 2, 2011

The Whiteness of the Whale

Frederick Douglass not black enough

I have just listened to an 8 minute rant against the OWS protesters by podcaster Adam Corolla: (http://biggovernment.com/mrctv/2011/11/30/adam-carolla-explains-the-ows-generation/).  These polarized times are friendly to those personalities who can harness and provide a catharsis for conservatives and independents outraged by the ostensibly spoiled brats of hippie parents and others who like Big Government  (a.k.a. the Nanny State) as a solution to social inequality, or who were part of the self-esteem movement in multicultural education.

There may be something to what he says regarding giving undeserving kids trophies so that they won’t feel bad about losing to the stronger or more competent in school athletics and progressive education.  What Corolla did not include in this particular rant is the sea change in American education since the civil rights movement took hold in the 1960s. An entire generation of senior scholars in American history absorbed the troublemakers who instigated scary and destructive urban riots after the assassinations of Malcolm X, Martin Luther King, Jr., and Robert Kennedy (the latter friendly to those who would relieve the horrors of urban ghetto life). By 1968, the white northeastern liberal establishment consciously co-opted what by then was militant black nationalism, while the “cool” leaders in the media industry went primitive, feeding into long term trends in popular culture—for instance the minstrel shows, later 1920s embrace of such as Josephine Baker and flamboyant sexuality in general.  Both strategies would have been labeled as escapist by such lucid political thinkers as the late Ralph Bunche (d.1971). See https://yankeedoodlesoc.wordpress.com/2011/08/04/carnegie-corp-and-the-negro-problem/.

By the time I hit graduate school in US history in the early 1980s, the determining structures were in place: American history was taught as if instructed by Soviet anti-American propaganda. Rather than being an exceptional nation, unprecedented in its governmental reliance on popular sovereignty as a source of instruction and legitimacy, “Zionist” America* was a rotten apple with a polished red skin, but rotten to the core. The entire field of American Studies (and its affiliated cultural studies) were devoted to proving this proposition. And even post-Civil War immigrants were held responsible for the misery of “Afro-Americans” as some called the black population, even Eastern European Jews fleeing pogroms and held to be communistic infiltrators.

Not surprisingly, conservative intellectuals are recuperating the Founding Fathers and writing about the making of the U.S. Constitution, in order to combat the Democratic Party’s emphasis on the antebellum period, the Civil War, and the failure of Reconstruction, events said to have entirely disabled living blacks today! How do we know this to be true? The history profession gives its major awards to those cultural historians who assert that the Civil War and white racism are the central sources of American character and cultural identity. The vanguard of Chosen People (asserted by Herman Melville! https://clarespark.com/2009/09/06/the-hebraic-american-landscape-sublime-or-despotic/) has been banished to the back of the line in Ivy League universities and in the humanities in general.  If you are not writing about “race” you are simply not in the academic game, and heaven help the feminists who do not focus their research on women of color. Similarly, if you write about the labor movement, you had better note their earlier hostility to black, Chinese, and Latino competitors. Throw in the Draft Riots of 1863, or the inherently narcissistic character of “American individualism,” or the peculiar institution (Southern slavery) as indistinguishable from capitalism (or its financial haul from slave labor funding capitalist development), and you are on your way to a job in the history profession in actually existing major universities.

To return to Adam Corolla’s rant against OWS. Beside the strong Third World or Maoist contingent of the current organized Left in OWS, add those who were educated to believe that capitalism is not merely a failed experiment, but is positively evil and an expression of our species’ “dark side”; that whiteness itself  is proof of demonic possession and the will to plunder and disrespect the whole, wide world.  Wonder ye then at the fiery hunt?

* See this excerpt from Dmitri Volkogonov, The Psychological War (1986):  “The capitalist mass media are greatly influenced by the Zionist circles.  For example, Zionist organisations in the United States control half its magazines, more than half of its radio stations, and a large number of press and radio bureaus abroad.  In other capitalist countries the picture is very much the same.  In addition to that, various Zionist organisations run more than a thousand publications in 67 countries.  This is where the military-industrial complex draws its ideological support. The capitalist mass media spread outright lies about socialism, create a climate of fear for the future, of gloom and doom.  The main idea of this vast system of disinformation is to prove that “socialism is bad” and the “free world” is good. This is how the capitalist mass media are waging the psychological war against the Soviet people, also against their own people whom the bourgeois radio centres feed with disinformation.  This is how opinions in the West are shaped when people are unable to understand the true state of things, when they think and act only under the influence of the extraneous forces that manipulate them.”

NOTE. This blog reflects my reading of the week: Frederick Douglass, Life and Times of Frederick Douglass (1962) and David Blight, Frederick Douglass’s Civil War (1989). 

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