This post needs to begin with a very important observation: Since the end of WWII, and with increasing speed and force since the 1960s, Leftists parents and educators have encouraged young people to go into America’s institutions (most notably education and entertainment) to change those institutions — and change them they have. By contrast, conservatives today steer their children away from education and entertainment, for fear that those institutions will corrupt their children. Conservatives therefore tend to congregate in powerless ghettos, rather than doing what’s necessary to re-take the culture. I’m guilty of this myself, because I hate the thought of sending my children to an expensive Ivy League to learn Leftism, rather than sending them to a more affordable place where they might actually learn something.
Keep the above thought in mind as you read the following post about yet another highly visible Leftist inroad into education, one that sees the fruit of seeds planted forty years ago.
Owing to a Little Bookworm’s decent PSAT scores, our mailbox has been deluged with promotional materials from colleges all over America. They are remarkably generic, featuring pictures of beautiful campuses and good-looking, smiling, racially-diverse students. They all promise that students attending these collages are academically challenged and emerge, at the end of four years, as better people for the experience. More and more of them also include “fun” quizzes that ask the student to state “true” or “false” to sentences such as “I like to party all night long,” or to pick the best candidate from three sentences such as (i) “I like to party all night long,” (ii) “Reading is my only source of pleasure,” or (iii) “I like walks in the park.” In other words, they’re precisely the same tests that used to feature (and probably do still feature) in Cosmo or Glamour magazines, except without the focus on sex.
I hate these tests because they lack any nuance. For example, what does “party all night long” mean? Binge drinking? Group sex? Dancing? Talking with friends? Without that info, any answer one gives is useless and meaningless. Likewise, the fact that I used to love to dance all night long, that I live to read, and that I enjoy walks in the park means that, when I have to choose between three statements, there is no “best” answer. All three are true and, when I’m forced to pick one, I’m essentially lying to myself and the test giver by denying the other two.
When I saw the story about the Common Core political ideology survey currently handed out in Illinois public schools, I ended up being offended at two levels. First, Illinois being . . . well, Illinois, I think it’s reasonable to believe that parents who self-identify may well find that their child is either shunned, or penalized, or (worse) subject to an extra dose of Leftist propaganda to offset “dangerously” individualist parenting. And yes, perhaps one day the conservative parent may find social services standing on his doorstep telling him that the government is taking his child because it’s been determined that the home is an unsafe environment. Why unsafe? Because a conservative parent is presumptively a gun-shooting, child-beating, racism-ranting, government-hating fruit loop, that’s why.
Second, I find the quiz offensive because it’s both insanely and inanely stupid. As with all these true/false tests that do not revolve around provable factual details (a provable one would ask “True or false: The first President of the United States was Jerome Washington”), the questions are dreadful because they are invariably predicated on false premises:
Statement one: “The government should encourage rather than restrict prayer in public schools.” To begin with, to which government does the question refer? It’s certainly an important distinction. As far as federal and state governments go, those governments should stay out of the matter entirely, neither encouraging nor banning. Both activities advance a religious viewpoint, whether Christian, Jewish, or Atheist. (And yes, atheism is a belief system, which makes it a religion. After all, atheists are even building churches now and demanding military chaplains.)
Once one gets to the municipal or school district levels, however, it seems to me that communities should be able to make those choices. It seemed that way to the Founders too, who applied the First Amendment only to the government, which was barred from imposing a federal religion on citizens, interfering with any faith’s doctrine (although it didn’t stop the feds from attacking Mormon polygamy in the 19th century), and banning practitioners of varying faiths from federal office. So, if I were taking that test, would I put a check mark in front of that statement?
Statement two: “The federal government has an obligation to regulate businesses in order to preserve the environment for future generations.” Wow! That’s a loaded, stupid statement, one that combines the free market with Al Bore’s apocalyptic view of global warming. In fact, I do believe that the government can police the marketplace to some extent to punish fraud, usury, and other manifestly dishonest dealings.
I also believe that government is within its rights to impose reasonable controls on emissions. While I think anthropogenic global warming is hogwash, that doesn’t mean I approve of a factory dumping manifestly poisonous sludge into a community’s drinking water. That last sentence makes me sound as if I should support the anti-fracking movement, but I don’t. There’s no actual evidence that fracking poisons drinking water, while I distinctly remember from my childhood bodies of water near factories that were so poisonous nothing could live in or near them.
As in all things, there’s a rule of reason before you hit the downward slide to radicalism and sheer nonsense. So, if I were taking that test, would I put a check mark in front of that statement?
Statement three: “Affirmative action programs deny equality of opportunity to whites in hiring.” Well, yes, in fact, they do deny equality of opportunity to whites. They also denying equality of opportunity to Asians, who never benefit from affirmative action.
More than that, affirmative action programs deny equality of opportunity to blacks in hiring. The fact is that affirmative action, a temporary post-Jim Crow fix that has become a permanent institution has operated deleteriously for blacks, and it’s done so at several levels. Affirmative action’s existence fifty years after Jim Crow is premised on the racist assumption that blacks will never be able to succeed on their own merits, efforts, and ability. As Thomas Sowell points out, too many blacks have internalized this pernicious belief-system and therefore treat themselves like mental midgets.
Affirmative action is also bad for blacks because it applies, not just at the hiring end, but at the firing end too. The bald fact is that companies are afraid to fire minorities for fear of getting hit by a lawsuit. Because minorities know that they’re tough to fire, they have no incentive to do their best.
The previous statement is not racist, because it applies to all people, regardless of race, religion, sex, etc. Human nature is such that people do their best work when there’s profit for success and punishment (within reason, of course) for failure. That is, if you reward a worker for good performance, and fire him for bad performance, you will get a good worker.
Problems arise when you have a worker who gets the reward regardless of the performance level, and who knows that there’s almost no downside for bad performance. Under those circumstances, the average person who is doing “just a job” (rather than following a passion) will exert the least amount of effort possible.
These realities mean that I disapprove of affirmative action not only because it perverts the marketplace for whites and other disfavored races, but because it destroys African-American’s sense of self-worth, their self-image, and their self-reliance, while downgrading them in other people’s eyes. So, if I were taking that test, would I put a check mark in front of that statement?
Statement four: “The federal government should provide funds to improve public schools and make college possible for more young adults.” You realize that the premise of that question is that, if you throw more money at these institutions, they’ll get better. Keep in mind that the federal government already provides billions of dollars for public schools and colleges, which are still failing our students. I don’t think the government should provide more money; I think it should provide no money. Our education system, because it is in thrall to Leftist teacher’s unions, is broken, and no amount of money will fix it.
That loaded statement also ignores the fact that, when colleges get more money, they don’t open the door to more students. They pay their administration more, they increase the size of their racist “diversity” departments, and they build luxury dormitories to entice the children of rich parents. So, if I were taking that test, would I put a check mark in front of that statement?
Statement five: “The individual is basically responsible for his own well-being, so the government should make welfare recipients go to work.” Again, wow! Yes, I believe in individual responsibility. That doesn’t mean that the government is absolved from responsibility. Governments still need to manage infrastructure, act on public health matters, deal with foreign nations, maintain a standing military, etc.
As for welfare recipients being made to work, the statement is way too simplistic and makes me look like a monster if I say I agree across the board. In the real world, there are all sorts of welfare recipients: mentally impaired people who can’t work, elderly people who can’t work, healthy young people who don’t want to work, young women who view as their work the practice of having babies so as to get more welfare money, families that simply view welfare as a way of life, people who are temporarily down on their luck, etc.
I don’t believe in government-funded sloth, which is expensive and profoundly damages healthy young people whom Nature or God intended to live lives of purpose and productivity. What I do believe is that the best thing the Obama administration could do is to stop policies that kill jobs — policies such as Obamacare, punitive regulations, quantitative easing, etc. With more jobs available, one can more readily distinguish what Stanley Doolittle, in Pygmalion, described as the deserving poor from the undeserving poor. So, if I were taking that test, would I put a check mark in front of that statement?
Statement six: “The federal government should limit its spending so that individuals enjoy the maximum freedom of choice in spending their income.” I actually agree with that statement, except it’s incomplete. It’s not just that government, which doesn’t create wealth but only prints money, is sucking money out of the free-enterprise marketplace. It’s also that government is regulating Americans to death. Even if there was less money flowing into government coffers, and more money in the marketplace, Obama’s regulations, especially (a) those resulting from ObamaCare, (b) those aimed at stopping global warming, and (c) those giving too much power to unions, also prevent freedom of choice in the marketplace. The constraints on the individual don’t just flow from the government’s greed, but also its regulations. I’d probably put a check mark by that statement, but I’d be fulminating about the fact that it’s incomplete.
Statement seven: “Unregulated free enterprise benefits the rich at the expense of the poor.” Yet another inanely simplistic statement. In fact, unregulated free enterprise makes a lot of the poor people rich. Also, as the depredations in the 19th century shows, it can be very harmful to the poor. Moreover, there’s a difference between telling businesses how to do their business (which destroys the economy, benefiting no one but government cronies) and policing wrongdoing, such as poisoning water supplies, locking workers into factories that can turn into blazing infernos, or committing fraud against the public. (“If you like your plan, you can keep your plan. Period.”) The question is stupid, because it denies reality, which is nuanced. So, if I were taking that test, would I put a check mark in front of that statement?
Statement eight: The government should guarantee medical care for all its citizens. On its face, this one looks like a no-brainer: I cannot think of a single reason why a government should guarantee medical care. When I look at the countries in which the government has done so, whether Cuba, England, Canada, or any other place, I see that people fare less well than they did in pre-Obamacare America, with the only successful metric being that all people get to see a doctor for free. When government “guarantees medical care,” who cares that citizens die young? After all, they saw a doctor.
The statement therefore ignores something profound about government guaranteed healthcare versus health care in a healthy public sector economy: The way to guarantee citizens face-time with a doctor is a government takeover. The way to guarantee quality medical care for the greatest number of citizens is a free market. This means that a government can indeed guarantee medical care (as opposed to doctor’s appointments) for all its citizens by staying out of the marketplace. It can police fraud and such things, but it should not control business and medical decisions. So, if I were taking that test, would I put a check mark in front of that statement?
Statement nine: The Supreme Court should reverse its decision to legalize abortions in order to protect the right to life for a fetus. Whether one is for or against abortion, Roe v. Wade was one of the worst, most legally and constitutionally dishonest decisions ever to emanate from the Supreme Court. It’s an excrescence that should be voided. But remember, if I put a check-mark by that statement, I come out as pro-life, when I’m actually anti-Roe v. Wade. (As you know, I’m also more, rather than less, pro-Life, but the purpose of this essay is to attack the statement’s flawed assumptions.) So, if I were taking that test, would I put a check mark in front of that statement?
Statement ten: “The federal government should guarantee the rights of homosexuals.” Umm. Excuse me. What rights are we talking about here? The right not to be hanged, as happens to gays in Iran? The right not to be beaten, as happens to gays in Saudi Arabia? The right not to be sodomized, as happens to young boys in Afghanistan? The right not to be beaten on the streets? As to that, every American has the right not to be beaten on the streets. The right not to be ridiculed and humiliated in schools? Again, we all have those rights, although they’re inconsistently enforced. I was routinely humiliated when I was in school because I was small, wore glasses, and read a lot. The right to marry? Well, last I saw, any gay person could go to a church or synagogue that is willing to marry gays before the eyes of God and, in fact, get married.
The right to have the government acknowledge that marriage? As you know, I oppose gay “marriage” because I think it will inevitably lead to a constitutional crisis. As has already happened in England, if a particular church won’t marry gays, the gay couple sues, claiming its depriving them of their rights. In America, the constitution means that such a suit would pit the First Amendment right to freedom of worship against the first-time-in-history recognition of a “right” to gay marriage.
The right to civil unions? Hey, I’m okay with that. I think governments should be free to decide what relationships they want to encourage through legal incentives or disincentives, even if those decisions prove to be damaging to society. In other words, the question is meaningless. So, if I were taking that test, would I put a check mark in front of that statement?
Statement eleven: “Present federal laws effectively guarantee the rights of women and make passage of the Equal Rights Amendment unnecessary.” One thing you can say about Leftists is that they never forget an issue. The ERA died in the mid-1970s, but here the Leftists are, resurrecting it again to a generation that has no idea what this quiz is talking about. I hate the way our laws parse people into categories. I would have laws that actually apply to all people, not laws that apply to some people, invariably at the expense of other people. I’d probably put a check mark next to this statement but, again, I’d be fulminating.
Those questions reveal how completely Leftism has taken over American education. This takeover didn’t start yesterday. Remember how I mentioned that the march into education was led by young people who entered conservative (or neutral-ish) bastions deliberately with the goal of effecting change, no matter how many decades it took? The company that provided the above quiz is a perfect example of the patience, discipline, and comprehensiveness of the Leftist drive into education.
The company that created the quiz is “The Center for Learning.” You can get a sense of its ideological orientation by looking at the materials it sells to schools, as well as the materials from its parent company, “Social Studies School Services.” Both of these companies provide course material for American schools and both came into being around 40 years ago, just when Progressivism began its full-bore march on American educational institutions.
If you’re a teacher or school district shopping at The Center for Learning, you might decide to buy the lessons for American Social Issues. You can see “Lesson 32: The American Melting Pot — Myth or Reality” for free, online. The lesson’s objectives are twofold:
- To distinguish between an ethnic group and a minority group
- To consider ethnic groups and their contributions
The lesson itself is described as follows (emphasis mine):
In this lesson, students read a play that incorporates representatives of a variety of ethnic groups. They dramatize the roles, write answers to questions about the play, and discuss the play’s message. Students expand on this by talking about the inequities found in our society today and remedies for them. The final aspect of this lesson deals with the American Dream. Students study a chart showing the variety of minority groups and their income levels. Students answer questions related to the chart determining whether or not the American Dream is attainable for everyone. This lesson presents facts and concepts in a positive way and helps students determine whether we are a melting pot or a tossed salad.
There’s a handout with questions the students have to answer. Question 6 asks “How were the Japanese, Puerto Ricans, and African Americans victims of discrimination?” (The correct answer is “Japanese Americans were put in internment camps during World War II, while African Americans were subjugated to slavery and segregation. Hispanics are often denied jobs and opportunities because of their background.”) Interestingly, the course material never asks about the discrimination and poverty almost all Americans experienced in their home countries, which caused them to come to America in the first place. (And yes, even African Americans experienced staggering discrimination in Africa. It was their fellow Africans who captured them and sold them to the usually-Muslim traders who, in turn, then sold them to British and, later, American slave owners.)
One of the proposed “enrichment” activities is to “Research and report on laws that have discriminated against or excluded ethnic groups.” None of the suggested activities include looking at the way myriad groups in America — Irish, Jewish, Italian, Mormons, etc. — have overcome discrimination through hard work, followed by economic, political, and social success.
Social Studies School Services, which is Center for Learning’s parent company is, if possible, even more hostile to America. One of the items they promote for American classrooms is a video called “The Flaw” which is described as follows (emphasis mine):
Directed by David Sington. Explaining the fundamental reasons for the recent economic meltdown and, along the way, recalling U.S. 20th-century U.S. economic history, this award-winning documentary’s animated graphs and interviews with renowned economists build a case against credit-based capitalism: Because banks lend, consumers spend and corporations profit, so banks and investors become wealthier. Then, the wealthy (partially thanks to easy credit from banks) drive home prices upward, creating a mortgage boom that generates more wealth and further inflates the bubble. Includes plenty of detail on the mortgage debacle. Grades 10 and up. Closed captioned. Color. 82 minutes. Docurama. ©2010.
I suspect that the film makes no mention of Democrat-driven laws that forced banks to make bad loans so as to achieve full redistribution when it came to home ownership. (Would it surprise you to learn that the director, David Sington, is a career BBC employee whose main crusade is anthropogenic climate change?)
The company also offers a series of mini-documentaries about the American presidents. There are no clips, so one can’t tell how the documentary approaches the various presidents, but you can probably get an idea about content based upon this single fact (emphasis mine): “Prepared by a former Daily Show and Colbert Report producer, these fast-paced three- to five-minute segments deliver solid content in a format energized by lively puns, visual jokes, and memorable quips.”
In the beginning, people whose values skew to individual liberty, a free market, and limited government, didn’t really realize what was happen. They blithely pursued their day-to-day lives, laughing at places such as UC Berkeley or morality-free Hollywood, without realizing that the Leftists were slowly reshaping these institutions and, by extension, reshaping society. Now that the deed is done, conservatives respond by angrily pointing out the problems, usually to approving cheers from a chorus of like-minded people. (My blog is a perfect example. I love, absolutely love, my conversations with all of you, but we are definitely preaching to the choir.) What we don’t do is seek employment at NPR or in the Hollywood studios. Part of it, of course, is the blacklist those institutions have against hiring conservatives. Back in the day when institutions ran scared of Leftists, though, the Leftists had no compunction about lying, subterfuge, institutional sabotage, etc. Their goal was to get in. Once in, they knew that they could change the world.
Our refusal to use our children to storm those institutions is worrying, because it suggests that we’re afraid that our ideals will collapse when faced with their ideals — much as Muslims, terrified lest dissent expose flaws in their faith — execute dissenters. And we have good reason to be scared. Leftism is an easy sell to the young: sex, drugs, and rock & roll. All that we have to offer are hard work, rationalism, and moral decency. That our values make the world a better, safer place, with people who score higher on happiness indices isn’t very convincing for an 18-year-old walking into an art-house porn movie, comfortable in the knowledge that he can afford to go to movies because, thanks in part to Obamacare, which makes sure he has his parents’ health insurance for another eight years.