Schools and parents who teach children to become chum for bullies

School-bully-001
One of my pet peeves is bullying.  I’m not talking about bullying amongst students, although I certainly don’t like that.  I’m talking about the bullying from school districts and Progressive parents who work overtime to ensure that children are brainwashed into fearing self-defense so much that they would rather be led as lambs to the slaughter than stand up for themselves.  The schools are dividing students into two classes:  the bullies and their institutionally created helpless victims.

I’m fulminating about this because of a story I found in the San Jose Mercury News.  There really was bullying going on — students attacked a 15-year-old classmate — but what makes me crazy is the fact that the mother ordered her child to take a beating, while the child celebrated the fact that it was better to get beaten up than to have problems with the school administrators (emphasis mine):

Ann Benediktsson, a 15-year-old Dougherty Valley High School student, was walking home on Thursday when a classmate approached her to say she would soon face a peer in a fight.

Ann’s mother, on the phone with her at the time, told her two things: Run home, and if a fight happens, do not fight back.

“It was the hardest thing I have ever had to say in my life,” Kate Benediktsson recalled. “I felt useless.”

[snip]

Minutes after speaking to her mother, Ann ran into her peer in a park along with over two dozen other students, waiting to witness the event. While Ann attempted to keep her attacker from pulling her hair and socking her jaw, the bystanders pulled out their phones and filmed. In a video Benediktsson obtained of the fight that she later posted to YouTube, students can be heard egging on the fight, sometimes cheering when Ann’s attacker made contact.

Ann never threw a punch.

“I am proud of how I handled it,” Ann said. “I’m glad I didn’t hit back because the principal and teachers would have just said it was a spat between teenagers.”

I cannot believe that a mother told her child to be a punching bag for bullies.  Moreover, I cannot believe that a mother told this to her girl child. One of the primary lessons women learn in every self-defense class is this:  if you fight back against someone who is assaulting you, you are likely to suffer physical injuries, but you are also much less likely than the passive victim to be raped or killed.

In the African savannah, when lions stalk wildebeests or gazelles, the lions do not like to have to work hard for their meal.  They want the lame and the weak stragglers, not the vigorous animals that put up a fight.  Human predators are the same.  A women who walks with an upright, energetic step, and who is aware of her surroundings, simply isn’t as appealing as the gal shuffling along with her head down.  And if that shuffling gal, when attacked, suddenly finds some gumption and fights back, the predator will often back off in any event and look for an easier victim.  (For more on the psychology of self-defense, I highly recommend Gavin de Becker’s The Gift of Fear and Other Survival Signals that Protect Us From Violence.)

The mother in the above news story essentially taught her daughter to be shark chum.  Moreover, while the mother ordered the “principled” stand, it was her daughter who ended up taking a beating.  The daughter was certainly an obedient child, but I do rather wonder if the mother would have stood there that passively if it was she, rather than her child, being attacked.

I wasn’t the only one thinking it’s a bad article that celebrates the next generation of victims.  Although the article garnered only eight comments, one of them was right on the mark as far as I was concerned:

ghosthunter007

sorry but I rather take a suspension and stand my ground than to be hit upon, that is the problem with parents these days oh don’t fight back, I taught my son how to defend himself and in doing so he is respected because those who tried to fight him lost. I hate bullies. Everyone should know how to defend themselves.

Ever since my kids hit school, I’ve given them a single message:  Never be the one to start a fight but, if someone else starts the fight, you make sure to end it.  And don’t worry about the school’s subsequent response.  If you had to use physical force to defend yourself, and if the school attempts to punish you, I will take the school on if I have to go all the way to the Supreme Court.  I’ve never had to make good on this promise, since no one has ever physically attacked my kids.  I suspect that, with my instruction ringing in their ears, they don’t walk around like shark bait.

By the way, I always back up this instruction to my kids by telling them that, had Jews not been conditioned by centuries of oppression to avoid arms, put their heads down, and try to appease authorities, its likely that the Holocaust wouldn’t have happened.  Please understand that I’m not blaming those victims.  First, no one could ever have imagined what the Germans intended to do.  Second, the Jews’ behavior wasn’t a conscious decision.  It was the result of a thousand years of conditioning.  Israel, thankfully, while not blaming the victims, nevertheless learned the lesson.  Like my children, Israel won’t start a fight, but she will finish it.

Incidentally, reading this news report about a school district’s institutional hostility to self-defense effectively bullying a child into victimhood, a behavior the child’s mother reinforced, reminded me of a post that America’s Sgt. Major wrote a couple of years ago at Castra Praetoria, explaining how to deal with bullies.  I highly recommend it, because it’s both enjoyable and instructive.

When narcissists apologize: Arne Duncan regrets that he was caught being a racist

Arne Duncan defended common core by verbally assaulting “white suburban moms.”  He’s now issued the standard Obama-era apology, which is to say that he’s not sorry for what he said, he’s just sorry that he got caught saying it:    “I used some clumsy phrasing that I regret.”

I was going to ask, “How dumb does Duncan think the American people are?”  That’s a stupid question.  The American people are dumb enough to have given people like Duncan virtually unfettered power in the halls of academia for upwards of 40 years now.

Dunca is right — he doesn’t owe us a real apology.  We had it coming.  Americans have had ample evidence that he’s a scorpion and they still held out their arms and said “Sting me.”

It’s we who owe the youth of America a real apology for inflicting these monsters on them.

UC Berkeley student government announces that the phrase “illegal immigrant” is banned *UPDATED*

One wonders how many of the jubilant Berkeley students who bought into 1964's Free Speech Movement would be shocked by today's censorship.  My guess is "none."  It was always about Leftist re-education.

One wonders how many of those neatly attired and jubilant Berkeley students who bought into 1964′s Free Speech Movement would be shocked by today’s censorship. My guess is “none.” It was always about Leftist re-education.

The People’s Republic of Berkeley or, as it’s more commonly known, the University of California, Berkeley, has stayed true to its core Orwellian Leftism by banning language. Today’s targeted “bad thinking” is the phrase “illegal immigrant.” According to the censors occupying Berkeley’s student government, that phrase is “racially charged,” “dehumanizes” people, and contributes to “punitive and discriminatory actions aimed primarily at immigrants and communities of color.” Apparently the truth hurts.

The resolution, of course, carried with the usual Soviet style unanimity: 18 voted “yes” to censor thought and language, while one student abstained. (More on that single abstention later.)

Actually, the ultra-Left Berkeley was late to the party on this one, but that’s only because the University of California in Los Angeles has a much higher population of illegal immigrant students. That’s almost certainly why UCLA passed a similar resolution in August, while Berzerkley didn’t get around to it until November.

The resolution is a beautiful example of Orwellian speech. It leads with pure academese nonsense: “The ‘I’ word is legally inaccurate since being out of status is a civil rather than criminal infraction.” You’ll note that the “I” word (and we’re not sure whether the “I” word is “illegal” or “immigrant”) is now so tainted that I t’s been elevated to the status of the infamous “N” word. (For those of you too young to remember the OJ Simpson trial, or those who just dislike censorship, the “N” word is “nigger.” It’s a nasty, mean-spirited word, but nobody has ever dropped dead spontaneously from hearing or reading it.)

That nonsense phrase is just a warm-up for the Orwellian language changes the students propose:

“No human being is illegal. ‘Foreign nationals,’ ‘undocumented immigrants,’ ‘immigrants without papers’ and ‘immigrants seeking status’ are examples of terms we can use that do not dehumanize people.

You can use all the metaphors you like, dear little UC Berkeley soviets, but the fact remains that, to the extent these people are in America in an undocumented way without papers, it’s because they broke the law by sneaking over the border like thieves in the nights. In other words, adjectively, they’re immigrants who are here illegally, which makes them – yes, wait for it — ILLEGAL IMMIGRANTS.

The problem, of course, isn’t the words. It’s the behavior. You can dress mutton up as lamb, but it’s still mutton. And someone who sneaked over the border in violation of our nation’s laws is still illegal no matter how frilly the words you drape around that person.

Of course, the commissars at Berkeley can’t just stop with a stupid resolution. What’s Soviet-style censorship and shaming without communist-style re-education? To that end, the resolution also calls for administrators and faculty to attend an “UndocuAlly training workshop.”

Considering that greater than 90% of Berkeley’s administrators and faculty members are the ones who trained these junior Leftists, it’s actually funny to hear the students demand that their mentors need re-education. Of course, that’s the way it happened in China too, when the younger generation decided that the elders who ushered in Communism showed inadequate fervor in their commitment to the monster they had created. It was these radicalized students who ushered in Mao’s “Great Leap Forward,” complete with 50-70 million dead Chinese citizens – all of whom no doubt starved to death joyfully thanks to their contribution to the great communist cause.

As for the sole abstention, it’s worth noting that he’s probably ready for re-education too. Student senator Solomon Nwoche agrees in principle with the resolution, but thought it was a waste of time. That shows practical intelligence. His real sin, though, was in his sneaking respect for freedom of speech and the marketplace of ideas. He was disappointed, he said, that, when a single person tried to speak out against the resolution, the student senators laughed at him or, even more disgustingly, turned their backs to him.

(A slightly modified version of this post first appeared at Mr. Conservative.)

UPDATE:  I should add here that I agree that America’s immigration laws are dreadful.  Having said that, it’s up to America to change her laws, not for illegal immigrants to change them by ignoring them.  (Well, in theory that’s the case.  In fact, the Obama administration is also changing them by ignoring them.)  We also should start putting pressure on Mexico.  Immigrants come here illegally because Mexico is so shamefully corrupt and poorly run that a country rich in resources, but natural and human, is mired in poverty, and because Mexico charges its citizens such heinous amounts to allow them to leave the country legally that poor are stymied both by America’s laws and by Mexico’s.  A fix is a good thing; disrespect for our country’s borders and laws is a disastrous thing, going to the sovereign integrity of our nation and her citizens.

Wendy Davis: typical Harvard Law School grad

To those few of you reading this who are conservatives who managed to survive Harvard Law School, my apologies.  But I have to say, having read this, it’s obvious that Texas’s Wendy Davis is a typical Harvard Law School grad:  thin-skinned, unprincipled, arrogant, anti-constitutional, and ill-informed.  Oh, and judging by her claiming the “pro-Life” mantle for herself, appropriately Orwellian.

I know that there are good Harvard Law grads out there.  I’ve always been willing to say that Harvard Law was still producing decent lawyers as late as 1980.  Ted Cruz proves that intelligent people can still go in there and come out alive.

But in my experience, people like Obama and Wendy Davis are the typical Harvard Law grads of the past 30 or so years:  they’re undoubtedly bright going in, but after three years spent at that august institution, they’re ruined.  To them, law isn’t a matter of justice, it’s a matter of social justice.  They operate off of a sense of wounded ego and identity-based victim-hood.  Principles always give way to expediency.  And they have no professional decorum.  Barring one rather insane guy who went to Hastings, I’ve never dealt with ruder, less honest, more unreliable people across the courtroom, fax machine, telephone, email, or desk than Harvard Law Grads.  They’re like rats.

Yale grads are just as insanely ideological, but they at least acknowledge that the law creates boundaries and that professionalism exists, and they try to operate within those parameters.  Harvard Law grads don’t.

Quite possible the best thing that could happen to American politics would be for Harvard Law to suffer some sort of catastrophic financial loss and close its doors permanently.  It’s a factory for defective people who are given instant admission to America’s halls of power.

Why the Left cherishes “educators”

Yesterday, I wrote about the peculiar socialist inversion that sees doctors — who study for years, work insane hours, and hold our lives in their hands — routinely denigrated, while teachers — who study for a short time, work the world’s shortest hours, and don’t hold anybody’s lives in their hands — celebrated as society’s most worth martyrs.  My conclusion was that

Thinking about it, of course, this socialist inversion makes perfect sense.  Teachers produce the next generation of socialists; doctors cost money by saving the lives of old socialists who no longer contribute to the commune.  The relative values assigned these jobs in a socialist society has nothing to do with their contributions to the individual and everything to do with their contributions to the state.

In his column today, Dennis Prager confirms my point about the central role teachers play in a socialist culture.  He wrote a post about the way in which conservative parents are surprised that their children come home from college spouting hard-core Leftist ideology.  They shouldn’t be surprised, he says:

Virtually every institution outside the home has been captured by people with left-wing values: specifically the media (television and movies) and the schools (first the universities and now high schools). In the 1960s and 1970s, American parents were blindsided. Their children came home from college with values that thoroughly opposed those of their parents.

And the parents had no idea how to counteract this. Moreover, even if they did, after just one year at the left-wing seminaries we still call universities, it was often too late. As one of the founders of progressivism in America, Woodrow Wilson, who was president of Princeton University before he became president of the United States, said in a speech in 1914, “I have often said that the use of a university is to make young gentlemen as unlike their fathers as possible.” Eighty-eight years later, the president of Dartmouth College, James O. Freedman, echoed Wilson: “The purpose of a college education is to question your father’s values,” he told the graduating seniors of Dartmouth College.

Even now, too few conservative parents realize how radical — and effective — the university agenda is. They are proud that their child has been accepted to whatever college he or she attends, not realizing that, values-wise, they are actually playing Russian roulette, except that only one chamber in the gun is not loaded with a bullet.

Sick or dead citizens are much less important than indoctrinated citizens.  Leftists have always understood that, and conservatives have been too slow, too stubborn, and perhaps to honorable to recognize this reality.

 

Socialism always values propagandists over providers

I have a couple of high school friends on Facebook who grew up to become teachers.  They are relentless about posting daily materials highlighting the American teacher’s martyrdom.  If you relied on these posters alone, you’d think that being a teacher is the hardest job, with the lowest salary, in the world.

I am not unsympathetic to teachers.  My father was a teacher and, back in the day, he really did earn a low salary.  In 1987, after teaching in his school district for 25 years, my dad’s top salary was $23,000.  (Add just another thousand, and you can get Dan Savage to come and speak for an hour at your university.) I graduated from law school the same year, and with absolutely nothing to contribute to a big law firm, walked into a $55,000 salary.

Daddy worked extremely long days — but those hours weren’t because of  his teaching job, but because of the low salary.  His teaching day was from 8-3.  Grading homework added another couple of hours, for a regular eight-hour day.  The real hours came with the four extra hours of private tutoring he did every day to augment his meager salary.  Also, since he worked only eight months a year, he spent every summer hunting desperately for a mixture of summer school and private tutoring jobs, so that he could pay the mortgage and buy food for us.  In those days, California teachers earned a living wage provided one had no aspirations to be middle class.

Nowadays, teachers earn living wages appropriate to the middle class, and work eight hours a day, five days a week, eight months out of the year.  I don’t begrudge them that.  Theirs is a necessary, important, and beneficial job and, depending on the school, not always an easy one.  Those tasked with spending the majority of their time with our children should get paid a living wage.  But the martyrdom shtick is unseemly.

At National Review, Jason Richwine points out that this martyrdom shtick benefits them in intangible ways, and is the flip side of the disdain with which doctors are increasingly treated in our society.  This got me thinking about the fact that, in every society that socialized its medicine, doctor’s status instantly degraded.  This is true whether you’re looking at the Soviet Union, Cuba, England, Canada, France, or anywhere else.  This is true even though doctors have the longest education and apprenticeship of any job in America and, once they’re working, they truly hold our lives in their hands.  Likewise, in every socialized society, teachers’ status improves.  This is true despite the fact that their training places a moderate demand on their time and they don’t hold our lives in their hands.

Thinking about it, of course, this socialist inversion makes perfect sense.  Teachers produce the next generation of socialists; doctors cost money by saving the lives of old socialists who no longer contribute to the commune.  The relative values assigned these jobs in a socialist society has nothing to do with their contributions to the individual and everything to do with their contributions to the state.

America’s institutions of higher learning are cesspools of Progressive racism

Back in the early 1990s, it was funny when American whites were told “White Men Can’t Jump.”  We’re also told on a regular basis that we can’t dance and that we’ve got no rhythm.

I always assumed all of these were gentle cultural jokes.  It turns out that, even if they started out that way, now that we have been thoroughly marinated in twenty-plus years of intensive political correctness, all jokes are over.  Now we’re getting to the serious part of our re-education.

Gawker, which is hardly a conservative hotbed, is reporting that Hampshire College booted a band because, while it played “Afrobeat” music, its performers are actually white.  The band announced its firing by saying it was told “that we were too white to play Afro-beat.”

The college, rather than issuing a statement saying that the band totally misunderstood, blah, blah, blah, made it worse.  It proudly announced dismissing the white-staffed Afrobeat band on the basis that its students were concerned “about cultural appropriation and the need to respect marginalized cultures.”

One is tempted, of course, to say that no black person should ever act in Shakespeare or perform Beethoven.  Fortunately we, unlike Hampshire College, do not judge people by the color of their skin but, instead, look to the content of their character and their innate skills and passions.

Hampton College’s obsessive, racist, demeaning sensibilities are scarcely unique.  In the same vein, in deference to the pathetic and stupid non-white students in their midst, the patriarchal, Progressive students in the University of Georgia’s Student Government Association are planning to honor mediocrity, which they obviously believe is the best to which non-whites (and gays, and women) can aspire.  According to them, success is simply too overrated when it comes to non-white, non-male, non-straight people.  From the UGSGA’s announcement:

It seems like whenever a minority identifying individual “succeeds”, he or she is identified as a “success story.” We will be featuring successful members of different minorities speaking of their own story and success, with a focus on how this idea of “success story” shouldn’t exist. The idea that minority success is “outstanding” means it’s not the norm–we don’t want “success stories.” We just want stories.

This event will feature different success stories from UGA, Athens, and Georgia, because we believe that hearing stories from our neighbors and friends is truly the most impactful way to humanize these issues.

For however many thousands of dollars their parents (and the taxpayers) spend annually to fund the University of Georgia, the kids have managed not to learn that “impactful” is not a word.  They have learned, however, the cool trick of simultaneously demeaning their culture’s accomplishments and looking down on minorities for even aspiring to achieve in this culture.

Remember, please, that there is no one — absolutely no one — more racist than a Leftist.

Yale Prof. offers a revealing glimpse into the Ivy League’s epistemic closure

A lot of sites have been linking to a blog post from Daniel Kahan, a law professor at Yale because it contains a very surprising confession.  To appreciate both what Kahan said (which was good) and what he refused to do (which was very, very bad), you need to know a little more about Kahan’s specialty.  According to the Wikipedia entry about Kahan, he’s a “leading scholar in the fields of criminal law and evidence and is known for his theory of Cultural cognition.“  (Emphasis mine.)

For the Luddites among us (and I proudly include myself in that number), “cultural cognition” is defined as follows:

The Cultural Cognition Project is a group of scholars interested in studying how cultural values shape public risk perceptions and related policy beliefs. Cultural cognition refers to the tendency of individuals to conform their beliefs about disputed matters of fact (e.g., whether global warming is a serious threat; whether the death penalty deters murder; whether gun control makes society more safe or less) to values that define their cultural identities. Project members are using the methods of various disciplines — including social psychology, anthropology, communications, and political science — to chart the impact of this phenomenon and to identify the mechanisms through which it operates. The Project also has an explicit normative objective: to identify processes of democratic decisionmaking [sic] by which society can resolve culturally grounded differences in belief in a manner that is both congenial to persons of diverse cultural outlooks and consistent with sound public policymaking [sic].

In English:  the good professor thinks that people use their preexisting values and data to analyze new information.  If you can get people to think the right way (I believe the Chinese communists called it “reeducation”), then you can get them to agree to Progressive policies.  (If you read on, you’ll understand why I translate “sound public policymaking” to mean “Leftist policies.”)

As an aside, shouldn’t Yale professors know that “policy making” and “decision making” are two words, rather than each being one portmanteau word?  Yeah, yeah.  Just call me fussy.

For those wondering about the value of a modern Ivy League education that little paragraph pretty much tells you what you need to know:  The Ivy League needs a guy with an expensive Harvard J.D. (and you know how highly I value those pieces of paper) and an even more valuable Yale job to figure out that people operate from their biases, both in collecting and analyzing data.

And speaking of people operating from their biases, Kahan has now confessed that his biases just received a stunning blow.  In the next few paragraphs, I’ll give him some credit for being honest about his recent discovery, but I’ll then explain why he only gets a small nod from me, not a big one.  For the most part, his post leaves me both disdainful and depressed.

Oh, I didn’t tell you what his discovery is.  It turns out that Tea Partiers, the ones who think that AlBore is a scam artist; that humans can pollute but that they lack the power to change the climate, something the sun has been doing fine on its own for several billion years; and that a country that insists on spending money it doesn’t have will soon go broke, are actually more scientifically knowledgeable than the Progressives who worship at the altars of global warming and Keynesian economicsYes, really.  Buried in a sea  of really awesomely impressive statistical jargon, that’s exactly what Kahan says:

In this dataset, I found that there is a small correlation (r = -0.05, p = 0.03) between the science comprehension measure and a left-right political outlook measure, Conservrepub, which aggregates liberal-conservative ideology and party self-identification. The sign of the correlation indicates that science comprehension decreases as political outlooks move in the rightward direction–i.e., the more “liberal” and “Democrat,” the more science comprehending.

Do you think this helps explain conflicts over climate change or other forms of decision-relevant science? I don’t.

But if you do, then maybe you’ll find this interesting.  The dataset happened to have an item in it that asked respondents if they considered themselves “part of the Tea Party movement.” Nineteen percent said yes.

It turns out that there is about as strong a correlation between scores on the science comprehension scale and identifying with the Tea Party as there is between scores on the science comprehension scale and Conservrepub.

Except that it has the opposite sign: that is, identifying with the Tea Party correlates positively (r = 0.05, p = 0.05) with scores on the science comprehension measure:

Again, the relationship is trivially small, and can’t possibly be contributing in any way to the ferocious conflicts over decision-relevant science that we are experiencing.

(I must confess that reading the above made me just ecstatically happy that I no longer practice law.  Think how much academic writing that spares me.)

You’ve probably seen the above quotation everywhere over the last two days.  It certainly makes sense to conservatives, because people who pay attention to actual facts are more likely to conclude that Anthropogenic Global Warming is a hoax.  (If you’re a data junkie, I recommend Watts Up With That.)  It’s the believers who are stuck in the epistemic closure loop.  Climate warmer?  AGW!!  Climate cooler?  AGW!!  No climate movement at all?  AGW.  Models wrong?  Still AGW!  That’s faith, my friends, not science.

But getting back to Professor Kahan.  What’s really fascinating is what comes after his confession regarding what is, to him, a counter-intuitive statistical anomaly.

May I take a moment here to remind you what Professor Kahan’s specialty is?  It’s “cultural cognition,” an expensive sounding theory that posits what your grandmother could have told you for free:  Our biases predispose us to interpret information in certain ways.  This obviously includes as a subset the fact that people look to certain authorities for information.  I can guarantee you that Obama reads the New York Times, and not National Review.  In this way, of course, he is distinct from conservatives, who read both.

Kahan believes that, if he can render cultural cognition into set data points, he can drag people into “sound public policymaking.”  (I believe George Orwell called it “groupthink.”)  Lift their blinders, and they will see the light.

But what about Kahan’s own blinders?  And that’s where his little post gets really interesting.  If you want to see a closed intellectual universe, Kahan invites you right into his:

I’ve got to confess, though, I found this result surprising. As I pushed the button to run the analysis on my computer, I fully expected I’d be shown a modest negative correlation between identifying with the Tea Party and science comprehension.

But then again, I don’t know a single person who identifies with the Tea Party.  All my impressions come from watching cable tv — & I don’t watch Fox News very often — and reading the “paper” (New York Times daily, plus a variety of politics-focused internet sites like Huffington Post & Politico).

I’m a little embarrassed, but mainly I’m just glad that I no longer hold this particular mistaken view.

Of course, I still subscribe to my various political and moral assessments–all very negative– of what I understand the “Tea Party movement” to stand for. I just no longer assume that the people who happen to hold those values are less likely than people who share my political outlooks to have acquired the sorts of knowledge and dispositions that a decent science comprehension scale measures.

I’ll now be much less surprised, too, if it turns out that someone I meet at, say, the Museum of Science in Boston, or the Chabot Space and Science Museum in Oakland, or the Museum of Science and Industry in Chicago is part of the 20% (geez– I must know some of them) who would answer “yes” when asked if he or she identifies with the Tea Party.  If the person is there, then it will almost certainly be the case that that he or she & I will agree on how cool the stuff is at the museum, even if we don’t agree about many other matters of consequence.

What a charming confession.  It even includes an embarrassed moue, along the lines of “I’m so embarrassed that I assumed Tea Partiers were dumb.”  That almost hides a rather spectacular omission.  Kahan fails to include the logical follow-up that any intelligent person invested in cultural cognition should make.  What he should say after his little confession is “Maybe I should check out what these surprisingly intelligent people believe and argue.”

Instead, what Kahan says after admitting to his intellectual bubble is that he’s just fine with it.  He has no interest in actual data.  Instead, based solely on his predefined values, he will continue “to subscribe to [his] various political and moral assessments — all very negative — of what I understand the ‘Tea Party movement’ to stand for.”  Or as I translate that, “Please, people!  I’m a Yale genius who’s looking for ways to re-educate you.  Don’t bother me with facts and, to the extent that I inadvertently stumbled onto some facts myself, be assured that I will assiduously ignore them.”

I have said for years that, while I’ve never met a post-1984 Harvard Law grad who wasn’t arrogant and ill-informed,* I’ve been impressed with Yale grads.  After my little insight into the thought process of a current Yale professor, I fear that, should any recent Yale grads pop up on my legal radar, I’m going to discover that Yale has gone all Harvard.  Clearly, you’re getting what you pay for at the premier law schools only if you desire social and professional cachet layered upon close-mindedness, chronic epistemic closure, arrogance, and ignorance.

We can all guess, of course, why the Ivy League crowd is so incurious.  They’re afraid that, if they look beyond the narrow confines of their own Progressive cultural cognition, they might follow David Mamet’s path.  Next thing you know, they’ll be cranking up the air conditioner, using excess amounts of toilet paper, and listening to Rush Limbaugh, while muttering “Ditto!”

_________________________

*And yes, I know Ted Cruz is a post-1984 Harvard Law, but I haven’t had the pleasure of meeting him.  I’m just basing my “Harvard lawyers are not people I’d ever hire for myself” attitude on the people I have worked with and opposite.  And of course, if Cruz is a Harvard anomaly, Obama, serenely enveloped in his ignorance and arrogance, is a Harvard poster child.

How Brown University “Choices” program disseminates propaganda

My 9th grader asked for help today with a required reading about Mexico.  Before helping with this assignment, I’d never heard of Brown University’s Choices Program.

Having seen just a bit of its “lesson” on Mexico, I’ll be on the lookout for it.  In just a few pages, it pretty much exonerates Mexico from its problems, blaming America and free market reforms. Please pay special attention to the cartoon that occupies almost a quarter of a page in this reading.

Never mind that Mexico never had free market reforms (it just had oligarchic capitalism) and that it uses illegal immigration to Mexico as a safety valve excusing its endemic corruption. Poor and criminal people leave the country; American dollars flow in — or at least they did, until our economic collapse, when poor Mexicans were faced with a saggy American economy to the North, and a corrupt, violent country to the South.

Choices Program on Mexico for High School students

Maybe there’s still hope as Obamacare’s burden on the young leads the young to push back

One of my children told me an interesting story about something that happened at her high school yesterday.  Because of questions from the students, a teacher gave a brief explanation of Obamacare, which included the information that it would insure everybody and that young people would be forced to buy insurance or pay a penalty.

When the teacher was finished, one of the students raised his hand.  This wasn’t just any student.  It was a top athlete who was in the running for Prom King.  He’s an admired leader in the school pecking order.

The student asked, “Does this mean that I have to buy insurance so that some illegal immigrant can get it for free?”

“Pretty much,” replied the teacher.

A few more questions like that in a few more schools across the nation, and young people might finally figure out that they’re being used and abused.

How public schools’ war on boys has led to an increase in gun crimes

The school year has started again and, with it, the insanity that is Zero Tolerance in America’s public schools.  The Washington Post, which originally reported the story, helpfully explains that our nation’s schools have been busy little bees for the past year when it comes to criminalizing child’s play.  I wonder if we’re looking at this anti-gun fascism a little bit backwards.  We’re seeing it as an attack on guns.  But in the context of public schools, isn’t it just a subset of the school’s over-arching hostility to boys?

Public schools like boys in the abstract, but they really hate the reality of boys:  boys are physical beings who live in a hierarchical world that reveals itself when they are as little as two or three years old.  For a nice discussion about the spectacular differences between boy and girl social interactions, if you haven’t already read Deborah Tannen’s You Just Don’t Understand: Women and Men in Conversation, you should.

Boys’ physical, hierarchical world means that they have a terrible time sitting still, even when they’re in their teens or 20s.  (Heck, I know much older men who are still kinetic, whether it’s a jiggling leg or a tapping finger.)  They engage in physical or verbal play that is intended allocate them to their place in the day’s (or the minute’s) hierarchy.  They practice male roles of warfare and command.

All of this is antithetical to the hyper-feminine, hyper-feminist atmosphere that pervades America’s schools, especially her elementary/primary schools.  I don’t know what it’s like outside of Marin County, but here, almost without exception, elementary school teachers are female, with a handful of gay men thrown in for good measure.  Schools want students to sit still, which girls do naturally and boys don’t.  Schools want students to talk about their feelings, which girls do naturally and boys don’t.  Schools want to destroy physical competition, which is a hard sell to girls, and an even harder sell to boys.

What schools should be doing is to allow boys maximum physical activity, such as full physical breaks every hour.  Rather than prohibiting physical and competitive play, they should encourage it, while enforcing concepts such as honor, fairness, generosity, and loyalty, as well as the difference between play and cruelty.  Boys should learn to be good winners and good losers.

The schools’ anti-bullying programs also persecute boys.  Often, bullies are testing out their competitive and pack instincts.  Schools could address this by giving boys meaningful competitive and pack opportunities, with strong expectations about honorable behavior, or they should work to teach other students how not to become victims.  (This would be akin to teaching home owners how to lock doors.  There are bad people out there, but you certainly lessen your exposure if you take responsibility for protecting and defending yourself.)

Instead, schools out-bully the bullies by bringing the full weight of the school to bear on a kid who is, as likely as not, just testing boy boundaries.  The victim learns that people should never defend themselves because, if they do, they’ll get in trouble, and if they don’t, they’ll be celebrated for calling in the heavy-hitters.  The “bullies” learn that the best way to win is to be the biggest bully of them all.

When boys do not respond to this constant hammering away at them in an effort to wipe out their biological imperatives, they get labeled as “problem” students, or ADHD kids.  The schools then start pressuring the parents to put the boys on psychotropic drugs.  It seems appropriate to mention here that, in every one of the school shootings in the last twenty-years, the shooter has been on psychotropic drugs.  The “turn boys into peaceful girl” drugs and the fact that the boys’ families have Democrat political identities are the ties that bind these youthful mass murderers.

I understand that there are boys who are violent and angry, and that bad things happen.  I’m not blaming everything on the schools.  I am saying, however, that in their efforts to feminize boys, including taking away the pretend war games in which boys engage to test what they can do, the schools are creating boys who do not know how to harness their boy energy in a healthy way, and who too often become dependent on psychotropic drugs that have strong links to murder and suicide.

In this context, the anti-gun policy, while it is definitely related to the Progressive push to wipe out the Second Amendment, is also just another front in the Leftist war against men.  The stakes are high in this war, by the way, because manly men — men who are self-reliant and responsible — don’t like a big government that tries to infantilize or feminize them.

(For more information on the schools war on boys, check out Christina Hoff Sommers’ The War Against Boys: How Misguided Policies are Harming Our Young Men.  I haven’t read it myself yet, because it’s expensive, but I’m keeping an eye out for it on our public library shelves.)

In defense of English teachers

I wrote a prolonged grumble the other day about English teachers.  In it, I mentioned an English teacher I happen to know and admire.  He thinks smart thoughts and writes in beautiful English.  Honestly!  How lucky can his students get?

In any event, he’s also humble so, rather than soaking up all the praise for himself, Mike McDaniel wrote a lovely post sympathizing with me, but assuring me that not all English teachers are grumble-worthy.

Why Romeo and Juliet? Why not Much Ado About Nothing?

Romeo and Juliet:  two impulsive teens.

Romeo and Juliet: two impulsive teens.

My two favorite Shakespeare plays are Julius Caesar and Much Ado About Nothing.  I’m also quite partial to Richard III.  My least favorite Shakespeare play is Romeo and Juliet.

Sure, I know that R&J has some of the most exquisite prose and poetry in the English language.  Indeed, I think that’s part of the problem.

Shakespeare’s writing disguises that Romeo and Juliet are two of the worst nincompoops ever to be created from an artist’s imagination.  They are everything that is bad about teenagers:  fickle (“Rosamund?  Who the heck is Rosamund?”), overwrought, manic-depressive, impulsive, and woefully short-sighted.  Their failings bring death and destruction in their wake, and in this regard they are aided and abetted by the equally foolish nincompoops who surround them.  West Side Story recognized these failings, and tried to clean up Tony and Maria a little bit, by having him be less fickle, and having only one of them die at the end, slightly lessening the pile of bodies.

The only sensible analysis I’ve ever heard about Romeo and Juliet came from a professor at Berkeley who suggested to the class that Shakespeare didn’t intend to write an ageless romance.  Instead, in a time when all classes of families arranged marriages for their children, his goal was to support this adult-controlled system by showing that, if youngsters are left to their own devices, their adolescent failings lead to disastrous choices for everyone involved.

Of course, that’s not how high school English teachers approach Romeo and Juliet.  Instead, they focus obsessively on everybody’s feelings.  Unlike Shakespeare, who thought that over-reliance on feelings brings tragedy in its wake, the modern way to teach R&J is to have classrooms full of 14, 15, and 16 year olds compare their feelings to R’s & J’s, and then to wallow in precisely the type of irrational thinking that Shakespeare thought was so dangerous.  It’s as if the schools are intentionally creating emotional, adolescent, loose-cannon nincompoops.

For Gawd’s sake, people!  Can’t you see that, if everyone ends up suffering meaningless deaths, they’ve probably pursued a foolish, not a wise, course of conduct?  None of the dead in R&J sacrifice themselves to save another or to save their country.  All die because of rage, revenge, impulse control, and woefully poor lines of communication.

Wouldn’t it be much more useful for students to read Much Ado About Nothing?  To the extent the play has a moral lesson, it has an obvious and useful one for the cesspool of gossip that is a modern high school:  gossip can ruin young women.  This is as true now as it was then.  In a day and age of social media, terrible stories keep popping up in newspapers about teenage girls who commit suicide after pictures of them misbehaving (usually because they were drunk) hit their schools’ social media and cause them to become reviled outcasts.  Poor Hero almost suffered that fate.  It’s good to have a play that focuses on moral purity, dangerous rumors, and rescuing sullied reputations.

And of course, nothing surpasses the delightful interplay between Beatrice and Benedick.  Whether on paper, e-reader, TV, or movie screen, most every romantic comedy written since Much Ado About Nothing relies on this Shakespearean formula of witty and wary lovers who use their words to both repel and attract.  Indeed, the two of them produced one of my favorite Shakespearean insults:

BEATRICE: I wonder that you will still be talking, Signior Benedick; Nobody marks you.

BENEDICK: What, my dear Lady Disdain! are you yet living?

Honestly, could anything be more pithy and cutting, yet surprisingly polite, than Benedick’s comeback to Beatrice’s insult?

If you ever get the chance, I highly recommend Joseph Papp’s 1973 version of Much Ado About Nothing, which is set in small town America at the end of the 19th century.  The acting is delightful and the setting is perfect.  High school English classes would be so much happier if students could laugh at and learn from Much Ado About Nothing, instead of spending their time wallowing in the pathetic teen culture that is Romeo and Juliet.

Grumble, grumble, grumble, English teachers, Grumble

Ever since my kids hit public school, I go through this every single Fall — “this” being the discovery that their English teachers are often border-line illiterate.  I know that there are wonderful, literate English teachers out there (Mike McDaniel springs instantly to mind), but my children haven’t been lucky enough to get one.  Without exception, the materials that the teachers send home are rife with grammatical errors.  I admit I’m a bit more punctilious than most when it comes to things such as split infinitives, but these are people — no, not people, but English teachers for Gawd’s sake — who can’t even figure out subject/verb or subject/pronoun agreement.

(I realize that there are invariably mistakes in my blog posts but, without exception, these mistakes are typos because I tend to slam these things out while in the midst of several other tasks.  The teachers, on the other hand, recycle these hand-outs year after year, so one would think that they’d eventually get them right.)

I just printed an assignment sheet for my high school freshman and it made me extraordinarily grumpy.  For starters, it’s poorly formatted, which bugs the word processor in me.  That’s just cosmetic, though.  I can even forgive the fact that the teacher pompously refers to himself in the third person.  Bookworm understands how that goes.  But the kicker is that it’s unintelligible.  The document has no organizing principle, it’s dotted with sentence fragments, and it’s impossible to understand what point the teacher is making.  It’s also impossible to understand what he’s asking from the students.

My children know I’m always willing to help them with English and history.  What I will not do for them, though, is decipher an accredited teacher’s marginally-literate maundering.

(Incidentally, this goes a long way to explaining the problem — English teachers are more interested in smut than in the English language.)

Schools’ war on boys

Two things come together in this article by Christina Hoff Sommers about the war that schools routinely wage against American boys.

First, it’s written by Christina Hoff Sommers, a writer I’ve deeply admired since I first read Who Stole Feminism?: How Women Have Betrayed Women. I give her a great deal of credit for helping strip the so-called “liberal” blinders from my eyes and allowing me to see human nature and the world we live in as they actually are, not as the Marxist propagandists claim they are.

Second, the article supports something I’ve been saying at this blog since the day I started it, back in (gasp!) October 2004:  Our culture is incredibly hostile to boys, and this hostility is reflected in our schools.  My pet peeve is the way education revolves around “feelings.”  I’ve said a zillion times that boys tune this out.  If you want to engage them in literature, have them read Ivanhoe, not Are You There God? It’s Me, Margaret.  I loved that second book (in a chastely salacious way) when I was 11, but Judy Blume-esque books are so not for boys.

If you give boys books about adventure, and heroics, and honor, and decency, they gobble them up.  If you foist on them relatively stagnant books about navel-gazing, they will zone out and become disengaged from education.  Wrap that up with games that deny boys the opportunity to play rough (in a fairly safe way), and compete, and learn how to win and lose, and you will have emasculated a generation.

Could it be that my child will learn something in AP English?

My older child is taking AP English this fall, and has to do some reading and write some essays even before school starts.  I was intrigued by two of the essays:

Francine Prose’s I Know Why The Caged Bird Cannot Read : How American high school students learn to loath literature (Harper’s Magazine, 1999) and Richard Rodriquez’s Aria : A memoir of a bilingual childhood (American Scholar, 2001).  What’s amazing about both of these essays is that they go against the dominant narrative controlling high school English classes all over the nation.

Regarding Prose’s essay, I’m too lazy to search for links right now, but I know that I’ve railed repeatedly against high school English classes that have nothing to do with the English language (grammar, composition, artistry, and elegance), and everything to do with advancing a Leftist social agenda, complete with victimization, racism, white evil, and the elevation of emotions over rationality and morality.  Back in 1999, which doesn’t seem that long ago, someone could still write an essay that would be published in a major magazine making exactly those points.  Prose doesn’t phrase it in terms of the Marxist takeover of education, but that’s the underlying subtext to her complaint about the — you should pardon the expression — crap that high school students have to read, none of which advances the cause of the English language.

Oh, and while we’re talking about English language bastardization, please read Dennis Prager’s latest, in which he comments on a decision Leftist publications have made to act unilaterally to rename the Washington Redskins.  For purposes of this post, here’s the killer quotation, made as part of Prager’s slashing analysis of Slate’s self-righteous stance:

Slate Argument Three: “Changing how you talk changes how you think. . . . Replacing ‘same-sex marriage’ with ‘marriage equality’ helped make gay marriage a universal cause rather than a special pleading.”

Response: It’s nice to have at least one left-wing source acknowledge how the Left changes language to promote its causes. When more and more people began to suspect that global warming was not about to bring an apocalypse, and that, at the very least, it is in a pause mode, the Left changed the term to “climate change.”

The substitution of “marriage equality” for “same-sex marriage” is just one more example of dishonest manipulation of English.

The Orwellian manipulation of language by the Left would be reason enough to oppose dropping “Redskins,” a name representing a nearly 80-year-old tradition venerated by millions.

As for Richard Rodriquez’s article, he says what my father always said:  “bilingual education,” which really means teaching an immigrant child in his native tongue without ever exposing him to the English language, is a mistake.  At least, it’s a mistake for the child.  For the Leftists (this is me talking, not Rodriquez), it’s a great thing, because it creates a perpetual (Democrat-voting) ghetto class made up of people who do not speak sufficient English to break into the great middle class.

These articles are old, and I doubt that many more like them are being written.  I’m delighted, however, that at least one high school teacher is keeping them alive.

I should note that neither of these articles has anything to do with the English language either.  That is, this class has nothing to do with learning how to venerate and recreate the best kind of writing.  But at least it’s not PC crap.

Is Chelsea Clinton really an accomplished woman or is she just a degree jockey?

At National Review, Katrina Trinko has a nice post about the media’s palpitating desire to see Chelsea Clinton run for office, despite the fact that Chelsea, so far, hasn’t seemed that interested.  Trinko focuses on the media, not on Chelsea, and Trinko clearly has no intention of attacking Chelsea.  Indeed, she makes the point that Chelsea is “accomplished”:

Clinton is no doubt an accomplished woman: She graduated from Stanford and has since obtained master’s degrees from both Oxford and Columbia; she is currently working on a Ph.D. in international relations. She is the co-founder and co-chair of the Of Many Institute for MultiFaith Leadership at New York University.

Reading that laundry list of degrees, it occurred to me that Trinko is either being generous or sarcastic when she calls Clinton “accomplished.”  In fact, Clinton has done exactly nothing with her life if the only thing that she can put on her resume is one academic degree after another.  (We’ll be polite enough to ignore Chelsea’s laughable stint as an occasional feature reporter for NBC.  After all, not everyone is blessed with media charisma.)

The only thing Chelsea’s little resume shows is that she has the money to remain a perpetual student.  She was raised in a rich liberal bubble, and she’s been content to live her entire life in precisely that same rich little bubble.  Academia is not real life and, in the old days, before Hollywood gave up any pretense of being nothing more than an elite socialist shill, the movies could still make some fun of that fact:

Just saying….

What are the obligations educational institutions have to young people in the LGBTQ spectrum?

Let’s start with that acronym — LGBTQ.  It stands for Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual, Transgender, and Questioning.  There are also adjectives that can precede LGBTQ, such as “Of color,” Black, African American, Asian, Hispanic, Disabled, etc., all of which create their own little sub groups within the LGBTQ group, which is itself composed of particulate matters.

All of you know that, being libertarian, I don’t care what relationships people form in their personal lives.  Having said that, Robert Lopez makes a good argument that the obligations we have to our children transcend our personal search for happiness, including love and sexual fulfillment.

I don’t believe in gay marriage, but that’s only because I believe it will lead inevitably to the type of clash between church and state that we’re seeing in England.  And no, I don’t see the First Amendment protecting religions from attacks by LGBTQ people who insist that a church must ignore its own doctrine and marry them.  We’ve already seen from the ObamaCare mandate regarding contraception and abortifacients that Leftists couldn’t care less about the First when it comes to protecting actual religions (which was the Founders’ goal), rather than protecting Leftists from religion.  I’m fine with civil unions, however, because I think the state can make whatever decisions it wants, even if they prove later to be stupid.

I’m also sympathetic to people whose external appearance is at odds with their self-identity.  I believe that hormones and other brain chemicals play a strong part in sexual identity and desire, and we all know that nature makes mistakes.  (Believe it or not, I was supposed to look like Heidi Klum.  Nature really messed up there….)

Lastly, I’m fully aware that LGBTQ people have higher rates of bad things such as drug abuse, alcoholism, depression, suicide, and spousal abuse.  I’m prepared to believe that some of these problems in childhood lead people to identify as LGBTQ; that some people are so terribly discriminated against because they are LGBTQ that they end up with self-destructive behaviors; and that there is something fundamentally unhealthy inthe urban LGBTQ lifestyle that leads people into self-destructive behaviors.

So we’ve established that I’m cool with people’s private desires, that I’m okay with civil unions, that I recognize that biology can treat people cruelly, and that I acknowledge a multiplicity of possible factors behind LGBTQ dysfunctions.  None of those factors, however, lead me to believe that our educational institutions have some overriding duty to serve all the needs of the LGBTQ community, or all of its racial or differently-abled subsets.  The LGBTQ community, though, does think that it’s owed this stuff and it believes further that our educational institutions, despite the university diversity staffs that can be bigger than the rest of school administrations put together, is failing to make the community feel good about itself:

Not only do queer youth of color deal with life-altering issues, says a new UCLA study, but schools and institutions are not adequately addressing their needs.

“GBTQ youth of color struggle with homelessness, poverty, family rejection and bullying,” says Ilan H. Meyer, the study’s principal investigator and Williams Institute Senior Scholar for Public Policy at UCLA, in a press release. “Yet, serious barriers exist to providing youth with culturally competent care.”

With a grant from Liberty Hill Foundation, Williams Institute researchers contacted L.A.-based education, medical, and social service providers, examining how the unique needs of queer youth of color are being met. What they found out wasn’t very good…

According to the study titled “Provider Perspectives on the Needs of Gay and Bisexual Male and Transgender Youth of Color,” various institutions are dropping the ball.

You can read the rest here.

I’m old-fashioned enough to have fairly limited expectations about educational institutions:  They should educate in an environment that doesn’t actively discriminate against people.  The facilities should be reasonably safe (no crumbling buildings, etc.), and the faculty should be good.  With younger students, the faculty should be attuned to obvious signs of abuse.  At the university level, it would be nice if the faculty was sensible enough to recognize troubling signs (drug use, extreme depression, anorexia, etc.), and kind enough to act on those observations, but I do not think that it should be a job requirement to have this awareness and decency, nor should the taxpayer have to fund administrations that function as social workers and psychiatrists.

Am I missing something?  Am I a societal sociopath or are the special interest groups in America demanding so much bath water that they’re killing the baby?  (And yes, that’s a fearsomely strained metaphor, but it takes me where I want to go.)

Regressive Progressive’s strike again, spending hundreds of thousands of education dollars on recycled liberal claptrap

Do you remember the show Good Times, the one that made Jimmy “J.J.” Walker a star?  It was a spin-off of Maude which, in turn, was a spin-off of All in the Family — all Norman Lear productions.  The show revolved around a black family living in the Chicago housing projects.  The mom and dad were hard workers, and their goal was to save their children from the pitfalls of housing project life.  The three kids were the goofy J.J., a perpetual optimistic and clown; the pragmatic Thelma, who felt the burdens of poverty; and the militant activist, Michael, a middle schooler who reliably voiced core Leftist ideology.

I watched the show religiously when I was in middle school and high school, but remember very little of it.  Actually, the only thing that stands out in my mind is an episode involving standardized testing.  Michael argued that the tests were hopelessly racist, because they reflected a world of knowledge denied black children.  The example he gave was a multiple choice question:

Cup and ____________

a.  Saucer

b.  Table

Michael contended that testing children on the phrase “cup and saucer” was inherently racist because poor kids — i.e., black kids — didn’t have saucers.  They would pick “cup and table.”  The fact that “cup and saucer” is a phrase — meaning that it’s not about logic and knowledge, but is about recognizing common English usage — was irrelevant.  After all, generations of people used the phrase “hoist by his own petard” without having any idea what either “hoist” or “petard” meant.  They just understand that the phrase referred to someone’s own behavior catching up with him.  Neither the character Michael nor the show’s writers cared about English language or logic.  They cared, instead, about explaining away low black test scores by pointing to inherent racial bias in the tests.

The thing about Progressives, as I’ve mentioned often enough, is that their arguments have remained unchanged over decades.  They frame abortion as if we still live in a world where pregnancy out-of-wedlock is a social crime that leads women to back alleys and death; they view race relations as if the Civil Rights fight in the South happened yesterday, but took place all over the country; and they believe in Keynesian economics despite decades of evidence that it fails.

If yesterday’s news is anything to go by, they’re also still reciting tired old educational tropes, although they’ve now get the taxpayers funding their Leftist cant:

Dr. Verenice Gutierrez, a principal with Oregon’s Portland Public Schools, has become convinced that America’s “white culture” negatively influences educators’ world view and the manner in which they teach their students.

For instance, last year a teacher in the district presented a lesson that included a reference to peanut butter and jelly sandwiches. Gutierrez says that by using sandwiches as an illustration, the teacher was engaged in a very subtle form of racism.

“What about Somali or Hispanic students, who might not eat sandwiches?” asked Gutierrez, according to Portland Tribune. “Another way would be to say: ‘Americans eat peanut butter and jelly, do you have anything like that?’ Let them tell you. Maybe they eat torta. Or pita.”

It’s likely that Gutierrez didn’t arrive at this idea entirely by herself. Instead, she might have had it spoon fed by an organization called “The Pacific Education Group”:

The Pacific Educational Group is the brainchild of Glenn Singleton, whose mission is to enlighten educators about how public schools promote “white culture” and “white privilege.” He argues that those conditions are responsible for the black/white achievement gap that exists throughout America’s public education system.

Learning Leftism doesn’t come cheap. Last year, despite the fact that the Portland school district is hurting for money, it spent more than $500,000 on PEG seminars that teach this claptrap.

This type of attack on education isn’t just expensive and it doesn’t just demean non-whites.  It is a very important part of the tactic of destroying America from the inside out by denying her a common culture.  In order for a nation to function, something has to tie the individuals within that nation together so that they feel a common cause with each other.  Multiculturalism, which insists that it’s racist to teach Americans a common culture, doesn’t turn us into a charming tossed salad, which was the metaphor the Left used to counter the old “melting pot” idea.  Instead, it creates tribalism within America.

Tribalism is okay if America is a single “American tribe.”  It’s a problem, though, when you have disparate groups within borders all viewing the others with fear and suspicion.  Then you end up with the Balkans, Rwanda, or large swaths of the Arab Middle East, where tribal hatreds periodically explode into blood baths.

(One interesting piece of trivia:  Jimmy Walker is a conservative.  He’s not a doctrinaire conservative, but he’s definitely conservative and not shy about it, either.)

A little of this and a little of that

Still working on coordinating my stiff, unresponsive brain this morning, so I have nothing interesting to say.  I mean, my dog is perfect, and that’s always of interest to me, but it makes for very limited blog posts.

Fortunately, as is always the case with the internet, even when my synapses are moving as slowly as maple sap in the winter, there’s other stuff there.  For some reason, today’s National Review Online was the one that just riveted me.  The site had three posts that I think are worth sharing with you:

Charles C.W. Cooke talks about the fact that Jill Biden, who has a very Lefty type of PhD in education insists on going by the honorific “doctor.”  This is kind of peculiar on its face, because people with PhD’s in education usually go by professor, but never mind that.  Cooke’s real point is to highlight the American class system the Left has created with its emphasis on doctorates.  With all due respect to those who worked hard to earn doctorates (and I hold one myself, in law, as does every other lawyer in this degree inflated world), the doctorate does not make for a better or more knowledgeable person.  Indeed, one of the problems with doctorates is that they narrow ones knowledge.  We have more and more people who wave around an obscure doctorate in puppetry or a subset of fruit fly cell reproduction and then claim based upon the letters after their names that they have all the answers.  That’s just so not true . . . except perhaps in my case.  In future, please feel free to call me Dr. B.

John Fund points out that, after its initial bout of navel gazing when Kirsten Powers excoriated the media for ignoring the Gosnell trial, the media is right back to ignoring the Gosnell trial — as well as two other trials in which abortion clinics are accused of putting women’s health and life at serious risk.  This adds that little bit of extra irony to the wrap-up to Obama’s speech before Planned Parenthood:

As long as we’ve got to fight to make sure women have access to quality, affordable health care, and as long as we’ve got to fight to protect a woman’s right to make her own choices about her own health, I want you to know that you’ve also got a president who’s going to be right there with you, fighting every step of the way.  Thank you, Planned Parenthood. God bless you.  (Emphasis mine.)

Repeat after me:  “It’s not about health care.  It’s about abortion.”  Until we acknowledge that, we will never have an honest debate about abortion — and its limits — in this country.

Congress awarded posthumous Congressional Medals of Honor Gold Medals to the four little girls who died in a Birmingham, Alabama church in 1963, the victims of a horrific extremist bombing.  Looking at that event and comparing it to the Boston bombing, Mona Charen makes an excellent point:

As Americans, we are not confused about the morality of what happened in Birmingham that September morning in 1963, nor during the Jim Crow era in America generally. We do not hesitate to condemn utterly the behavior and the beliefs of the Ku Klux Klan (the perpetrators of this bombing and others) and their white-supremacist fellow travelers. We do not worry that reviling white supremacists and their grotesque deeds will somehow taint all white people. (Though some on the left won’t mind if you generalize about white people.)

But when it comes to other groups and other motives for the same kind of terrorism — we lose our moral focus. Bill Ayers, Bernardine Dohrn, and Kathy Boudin have become honored members of the faculties at leading universities. Ayers is even a friend of the president of the United States. Regarding his own record of setting bombs that kill and dismember innocent people, Ayers told the New York Times on the ironic date of September 11, 2001, that “I feel we didn’t do enough. . . .  [There’s] a certain eloquence to bombs, a poetry and a pattern from a safe distance.” So says a retired “distinguished professor” at the University of Illinois at Chicago.

Today, American liberals are obsessed not with terrorism but with the color and ethnicity of terrorists.

How’s that for moral clarity?

Andrew Breitbart was right all along about the massive Pigford scandal, one that saw a reparations law turn into a major scam to rip off American taxpayers.  To give credit where credit is due, the New York Times has reported the details of this fraud.  I’d like to believe there’s a conscious afterlife, simply so that I can also believe that Andrew Breitbart is up there, somewhere, pumping his fist with glee.  Perhaps the New York Times will become inspired by this effort and turn to real reporting, rather than spending 90% of its time serving as a propaganda arm for Leftist politicians and activists.

And finally, speaking of newspapers, over at the WaPo, an opinion piece says that the way to destroy the Koch brothers’ proposed LA Times purchase is for all the reporters to walk out!  That’ll show them.  I had to laugh.  First, why would the Koch brothers want to keep a staff that has been responsible for purveying such horrible Leftist claptrap, the paper is seconds away from bankruptcy.  Second, this assumes that there are no good conservative writers, which reveals a level of bias so enormous as to be almost incomprehensible.  And third, does Steven Pearlstein really think that, in a tight economy, hundreds of reporters are simply going to abandon their jobs?

The homogeneity of Leftist thinking at American institutions and its effect on poverty at the ground level

I’ve written before about one of my favorite writers, Paul Fussell.  He wrote a wonderful essay entitled Thank God for the Atom Bomb, about the righteousness of dropping the atom bomb.  He was in the Army when Truman dropped the bomb, so Fussell wholeheartedly approved — and had the data to back up his personal opinion.  (More recently released data completely backs up his 30 year old hypothesis.)  I also wholeheartedly approve, as my Mom was a few weeks away from dying in a Japanese concentration camp when the bomb dropped.

Fussell also wrote what I think is one of the greatest books ever about WWI, The Great War and Modern Memory.  I just bought the Kindle version to reread because my copy, which I bought in college, has disintegrated. It’s a beautifully written book that looks at both the war and concurrent war literature to track a vast paradigm shift in intellectual thought during the four years the war lasted.  Young men went in imbued with Victorian ideas of chivalry and honor; they came out jaded, cynical, and completely unable to accept that aggression is sometimes necessary and could have been useful in preventing Hitler’s rise. It is a triumph of both military writing and literary writing.

What you might not know about Fussell was that this iconoclast was a university professor.  Nowadays, the phrase iconoclastic professor is an oxymoron.  Not so in Fussell’s heyday.  Wikipedia sums up his military and academic career:

Fussell attended Pomona College from 1941 until he enlisted in the US Army in 1943. He landed in France in 1944 as a 20 year-old second lieutenant with the 103rd Infantry Division,[8] was wounded while fighting in Alsace, and was awarded the Bronze Star and Purple Heart. He was honorably discharged from the army in 1946, returned to Pomona to finish his B.A. degree in 1946-7, married fellow Pomona graduate Betty Harper in 1949, and completed his MA (1949) and Ph.D. (1952) at Harvard University.

He began his teaching career at Connecticut College (1951–55) before moving to Rutgers University in 1955 and finally the University of Pennsylvania in 1983. He also taught at the University of Heidelberg (1957–58) and King’s College London (1990–92). As a teacher, he traveled widely with his family throughout Europe from the 1950s to 70s, taking Fulbright and sabbatical years in Germany, England and France.

As his writing shows, Fussell was an entirely original thinker who didn’t march to the beat of anyone’s drum.  Indeed, he delighted in challenging what was already becoming stifling academic orthodoxy:

Fussell stated that he relished the inevitable controversy of Class: A Guide Through the American Status System (1983) and indulged his increasing public status as a loved or hated “curmudgeon” in the rant called BAD: or, The Dumbing of America (1991). In between, Thank God for the Atom Bomb and Other Essays (1988) confirmed his war against government and military doublespeak and prepared the way for Wartime: Understanding and Behavior in the Second World War (1989). The epiphany of his earlier essay, “My War”, found full expression in his memoir Doing Battle: The Making of a Skeptic (1996), “My Adolescent illusions, largely intact to that moment, fell away all at once, and I suddenly knew I was not and never would be in a world that was reasonable or just”. The last book by Fussell published while he was alive, The Boys’ Crusade: The American Infantry in Northwestern Europe, 1944-45 (2003) was once again concerned with the experience of combat in World War II.

Fussell was never petrified or brainwashed by his academic career.  I wonder what Fussell would have thought if he’d been a teacher at Bowdoin in the last twenty years or so.  Bowdoin found itself in the news lately because of what David Feith calls “The Golf Shot Heard Round the Academic World.”  It all started when Barry Mills, Bowdoin College’s president, had a golf game with investor and philanthropist Thomas Klingenstein.  During the game, the subject of academic diversity came up.  Both Mills and Klingenstein would agree that Klingenstein didn’t like it.  According to Mills’s retelling at a subsequent graduation ceremony, Klingenstein was hostile and, in a word, dumb.  Writes Feith:

In his address, President Mills described the golf outing and said he had been interrupted in the middle of a swing by a fellow golfer’s announcement: “I would never support Bowdoin—you are a ridiculous liberal school that brings all the wrong students to campus for all the wrong reasons,” said the other golfer, in Mr. Mills’s telling. During Mr. Mills’s next swing, he recalled, the man blasted Bowdoin’s “misplaced and misguided diversity efforts.” At the end of the round, the college president told the students, “I walked off the course in despair.”

Klingenstein got word of this graduation address, which implied that the anonymous golf-companion was a troglodyte and racist, and knew that Mills was talking about him.  Klingenstein decided to set the record straight.  Rather than just saying “that’s not what I meant,” or offering his opinion about diversity, Klingenstein took his money and funded a National Association of Scholars project that carefully examined Bowdoin’s curriculum, especially in the last ten years.  The results were eye-opening, to say the least — or, saying a little more than the least, eye-opening to anyone who hasn’t been paying attention to what’s going on in, and the product (i.e., graduates) coming out of, these academic “gatekeepers of civilization”:

Published Wednesday, the report demonstrates how Bowdoin has become an intellectual monoculture dedicated above all to identity politics.

The school’s ideological pillars would likely be familiar to anyone who has paid attention to American higher education lately. There’s the obsession with race, class, gender and sexuality as the essential forces of history and markers of political identity. There’s the dedication to “sustainability,” or saving the planet from its imminent destruction by the forces of capitalism. And there are the paeans to “global citizenship,” or loving all countries except one’s own.

The Klingenstein report nicely captures the illiberal or fallacious aspects of this campus doctrine, but the paper’s true contribution is in recording some of its absurd manifestations at Bowdoin. For example, the college has “no curricular requirements that center on the American founding or the history of the nation.” Even history majors aren’t required to take a single course in American history. In the History Department, no course is devoted to American political, military, diplomatic or intellectual history—the only ones available are organized around some aspect of race, class, gender or sexuality.

One of the few requirements is that Bowdoin students take a yearlong freshman seminar. Some of the 37 seminars offered this year: “Affirmative Action and U.S. Society,” “Fictions of Freedom,” “Racism,” “Queer Gardens” (which “examines the work of gay and lesbian gardeners and traces how marginal identities find expression in specific garden spaces”), “Sexual Life of Colonialism” and “Modern Western Prostitutes.”

Regarding Bowdoin professors, the report estimates that “four or five out of approximately 182 full-time faculty members might be described as politically conservative.” In the 2012 election cycle, 100% of faculty donations went to President Obama. Not that any of this matters if you have ever asked around the faculty lounge.

“A political imbalance [among faculty] was no more significant than having an imbalance between Red Sox and Yankee fans,” sniffed Henry C.W. Laurence, a Bowdoin professor of government, in 2004. He added that the suggestion that liberal professors cannot fairly reflect conservative views in classroom discussions is “intellectually bankrupt, professionally insulting and, fortunately, wildly inaccurate.”

This is an intellectual, academic paradigm shift of almost incomprehensible magnitude.  Since its inception, regardless of the reality on the ground, America’s self-image (which was sold to generations of school children and college students right up until the 1950s) was of an inclusive nation, a melting pot, dedicated to the principle that all American citizens are entitled to equal treatment under the law; have a right to equal access to American opportunities (with it being up to the people whether to take that access); and are subject to the downside risks should they refuse to seize the opportunities or violate the law.  With slavery and Jim Crow, we deviated from the principles, but the principles were sound.

At Bowdoin, though, and others like it, the paradigm has shifted.  Young people are taught a new, ugly paradigm about their country:  America is composed of disparate groups, with a few select groups made up of white men (and, probably, Jews) controlling the nation and doing what they can to exploit, denigrate, and impoverish a never-ending, every-growing list of victim classes, ranging from women, to homosexuals, to non-white races, to Muslims, to fat people, to anything that can be brought under the umbrella of victim.  There is no such thing in this world as equality of opportunity.  There is only equality of outcome that can be attained by using the government to strong-arm the ruling class of white males (and, possibly, Jews) so that they redistribute their ill-gotten gains to the victims.

I was talking the other day to a friend who works at elementary schools in a large, urban ghetto.  These schools have no white children.  The schools are dreadful, and the children — innocent victims all — suffer terribly.  They grow up in abysmal poverty, and they don’t have role models within their homes showing  education or wealth.  Their neighborhoods are rife with crime (especially gun fire) and substance abuse. Almost all come from broken homes.Their streets are dangerous because of gangs.  The message one receives from those brave enough to work in those neighborhoods is that these children can succeed only if we pour government funds into their schools.  And if those funds don’t work, then we need to pour more in, and still more in.

In my mind, I compared these children — and they are so sad, since they are bright little lights that are blinking out — with the immigrants who came to this country between, say, 1850 and 1950.  They lived in ghettos; they lived in abysmal poverty; their parents didn’t speak the language of wealth (many didn’t even speak English); the streets were dangerous, not because of gunfire, but because of knives, disease, and starvation; there was significant substance abuse (alcoholism and opium); schools were grossly underfunded, etc.  And yet these children became working class, their children became middle class, and their children became upper class.  It wasn’t a 100% success rate at every generation, but it was a substantial rate at every generation.

They went from this:

Jacob Riis tenement photograph

and this:

Jacob Riis image of street kids

to this:

Suburban kitchen

What’s the difference between then and now? I don’t believe that it’s because American blacks (and it’s mostly blacks stuck for generations in ghettos) are forever developmentally disabled by slavery. John McWhorter points out that blacks were ascending rapidly, both socially and economically, before Lyndon Johnson’s Great Society enticed them into welfare and single parenthood (welfare pays single mothers better than two parent families).  Starting in the 1960s, the increasingly Left-leaning white leadership in America told blacks that, the end of slavery and Jim Crow notwithstanding, they are not created equal and they are not equal under the law.  They are different — they are needier.  Without Mama and Papa government, they are nothing.

I think it’s this paradigm shift, one that starts in the Ivory Towers by creating infinite victim classes, all of which that can be raised up only by government intervention and control, that trickles down into the streets. In the old days, you had to do it yourself, so you did. Nowadays, the government is supposed to rescue you. Homes don’t emphasize education, self-sufficiency, and upward mobility. They emphasize “Why isn’t the government helping?”  This is not about race, or slavery, or poverty — it is about an intellectual environment that explicitly educates future leaders that government needs race-victims, and slave-victims and poverty-victims to fulfill its purpose.  Without those classes, government is meaningless and by definition a vehicle of evil.

Paul Fussell, who thought outside the box, would not have approved.  (Or at least I like to think he wouldn’t have approved.)

A gripe about English teachers

English teachers

I adore reading but, with one exception, I loathed every high school or college English class I ever had.  Watching my children go through high school English classes reminded me why:  the books they believe we should read are dull and the teacher’s firmly believe that a cigar is invariably anything but a smoke.  (The exception was one vigorous, eccentric, acerbic English teacher who managed, while still obsessing over sexual imagery, to teach us actual thinking and writing skills.)

Maybe I’m a cultural troglodyte, but I think Catcher in the Rye is a dreadful book.  It was certainly groundbreaking when published, because nobody before had ever thought that readers would want to spend time with a self-involved, neurotic, boring, angry, sex-obsessed prep school boy.  Apparently post-WWII audiences, exhausted by years of being on and reading about blood-soaked foreign shores were, in fact, hungering for some narcissistic fare.  But why did the book become part of the American literary canon?  Outside of a certain type of English teacher, I’ve never spoken to anyone who actually liked it or learned from it  — and that’s true whether we’re speaking about learning more about the English language or learning more about life.

To those English teachers reading this blog, I can assure you that this post is not aimed at you.  If you’re the kind of person who would read a conservative political blog, I’m pretty sure you’re not the kind who would take Oscar Wilde’s opiate-infused Picture of Dorian Gray, and spend two full lecture periods focusing on the sexual symbolism of the various flowers described in the book.  (No kidding; that’s what one of my English teachers did.)  Wilde’s book was kind of fun, and he certain knows how to use the English language, but our classroom time would have been better spent understanding how he used structure, vocabulary and obvious imagery (as opposed to pre-Freudian sexual stuff), to write his famous book.

What I keep wondering is what English teachers (or the Boards that set their curriculum) think they’re supposed to teach.  If I were writing the curriculum, I would say that they should teach (a) basic grammar; (b) rich vocabulary; (c) solid writing skills; and (d) the true canon of beautiful writing that shows our English language being used in the best, highest way.  One can quibble over who should be in that list, but modern English is sterile without knowing Shakespeare, the King James Bible, Dickens, Austen, etc.  These works are the backbone of a lush, flexible, varied use of our English language.  (It’s hard to think of any 20th or 21st century books about which this can be said.)  Read these books and you will be able to speak and write with more grace, fluidity, and richness than would come from a thousand readings about that whiny little bastard Holden Caufield.

Today, every English class seems to be about amateur psychology.  The kids are forced to read navel-gazing books that aren’t about the English language — its use and beauty — but are, instead, about modern existential angst.  When did narcissistic angst shove the English language out of English classrooms?

Kids should be reading big books with big ideas, rather than small books about little people obsessed with their puny discontents.  Kids should be reading beautifully-written books that embrace our marvelous, multi-faceted, exceptionally-rich English language, instead of reading books that delight in the use of obscenities, slang, and bad grammar — all intended to show the author’s hip, navel-gazing credentials.

Our country would be a much better place if all high school and college-level basic English classes were wiped off the curriculum.  We’d then start fresh with books and poems that celebrate the English language and the human spirit.