The suggested list of books for a high school government class

Rear view of class raising handsIf you’re wondering why the younger generation blindly supported Obama through two elections; why they are reflexively hostile to conservatives and Republicans; and why, even though Obama has dismally failed them, they are incapable of considering another, less intrusive, approach to governance, just contemplate the list of books a local high school Government teacher recommended for the class’s mandatory reading requirement:

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I don’t know about you, but I’m thinking most (or all) of those books hew Left, way, way, way Left.

Since the list is supposed to consist of suggestions only, I’m trying to think of a few counter suggestions.  I need books that present conservative approaches to government and economics. Moreover, to the extent that a high schooler is going to be reading the book, I think my counter suggestion should be eminently readable and entertaining.  Of course, since I’m trying desperately to think of something quickly, before the weekend is over, I’m pulling a big, fat blank.

Still, keeping my requirements in mind (accessible, entertaining, easy-to-read), my top choice for a suggestion is Jonah Goldberg’s Liberal Fascism: The Secret History of the American Left, From Mussolini to the Politics of Change, which I think is one of the most readable political books out there. Goldberg has an incredibly deft touch. He makes his points lightly, often humorously, without ever resorting to browbeating.

What do you guys think?

What blight has fallen on Hispanic kids that keeps too many of them from succeeding?

Hispanic gardenersHere in Marin, children grow up in very politically correct homes.  It would be the rare household in which kids here racist comments from their parents.  Also, here in Marin, kids grow up with Hispanic housekeepers and gardeners, most of whom have an incredible work ethic.  They show up, and they work long, well, and hard.  They are admirable.

But here’s something funny:  I listen to the kids, and what I pick up from them is that, at their public schools, the Hispanic kids are seen as second class.  This isn’t because they’re Hispanic, it’s because they have two qualities the kids in my community disdain:  they’re disproportionately represented amongst the academically lazy and stoner kids.

Think about how peculiar this is:  In the 20th century, most of America’s middle class came, not from the immigrants, but from the immigrants’ children.  The children were born into the migrant slums and saw their parents working like dogs just to get back.  To get out of that poverty and to relieve their parents terrible burden, these children studied hard, if they had access to education, and worked like dogs to raise themselves out of the ghettos.  That held true for Irish, Russians, Italians, Asians, old-time Hispanics, etc.

But something toxic apparently happened to too many in this current generation of Hispanic children.  They live in lousy neighborhoods, their parents and older, Latin-American-born siblings have a superior work ethic and, between wanting to escape the former and being able to emulate the latter, they should be precisely like those Asian “model minorities.”  But the opposite is true.  Too many of them have neither ambition nor discipline.

Any theories?  This is not a race issue.  This is a generational thing, with the children being the mirror image of what immigrant children used to be.

Indoctrination at schools focuses on fantasy ills, while simultaneously denying reality

GaslandAmerica’s educational institutions aren’t taking antisemitism seriously — despite the mount of proof (often from the killers themselves) showing that tens of millions have died from antisemitism over the centuries.

Meanwhile, as antisemitism surges unchecked on America’s campuses, schools are taking very seriously fracking, even in the absence of any proof that it’s killed any one, ever.

It’s possible that schools aren’t taking antisemitism seriously because, at least in some schools, denying it is part of their curriculum: Witness the now-infamous Common Core assignment in the Rialto Unified School District directing all 8th graders to read Holocaust denial literature and than write essays denying the Holocaust.

And here’s an interesting tidbit: this Common Core assignment took place on the watch of an Interim Superintendent named Mohammad Z. Islam. The District’s story is that Islam knew nothing about the assignment and was appropriately shocked when he learned what had happened. There’s no reason at this point to disbelieve that assertion.

Islam, 57, grew up in Bangladash, where he saw the damage done by denying people access to education. He’s a finance guy, and worked as the CFO in the San Bernardino school district. He was then invited to step into the Rialto district after the former superintendent “retired” following the district accountant’s arrest for embezzling $1.8 million. Islam was seen as the antidote to chaos and corruption. Islam could well be a stand-up kind of guy. In that case, it’s very unfortunate that he has a name that many people consider consistent with a belief system that denies that the Holocaust happened.

What’s quite obvious is that more and more American public schools are abandoning classical education — when that looks to facts and analysis — in favor of a Leftist hodge podge of propaganda on everything from climate to the Holocaust.

Others have noticed that teachers think of themselves as one step removed from coal mine workers

Teacher affirmationI’ve commented before about the way in which America’s teachers paint themselves as the hardest working, most pathetically abused people in America.  In 2011, I noted that today’s teachers work fewer hours and are paid more than my dad’s generation of teachers, but the latter didn’t whine all the time.  Last year, I posited a reason for the unusual deference teachers get, and it’s not because they’re the overworked saints of their own heated imaginations:

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.

Richwine and I aren’t the only ones paying attention to this teacher worship phenomenon.  Writing at The Federalist, Daniel Payne, a homeschooling parent, also asks “Why Do Teachers Complain So Much?”  His theory is that teachers lack backbone.  Products themselves of America’s public school system, they have no ability to face adversity.

Reading his post, it also occurred to me that today’s teachers, unlike teachers of yore and homeschooling parents today, have an infinitely harder time teaching, not because students are inherently worse behaved than they were 50 years ago, but because their pedagogical tools are so poor.  Whole language is sneaking its way back into the classroom, despite a thirty year run of failures that saw the pendulum swing, way too briefly, back to phonics teaching.  Since we have a phonetic alphabet, the latter is the only teaching methodology that makes sense.  And those countries, such as China, that do not have phonetic alphabets, spend way more than 45 minutes per day, 5 days a week, making sure their students master “whole word” recognition.

Math too is becoming increasingly impossible because Common Core has also abandoned common sense.  In addition, where teachers once taught English classes that focused on language and composition and history classes that spoke admiringly of our own country, their English classes are now Left value propaganda and their history classes are deeply depressing diatribes about how evil we are.  Kids don’t want to learn this stuff, and no wonder.

English teachers

My conclusion would be that today’s teachers whine partly because they’re not as tough as past generations were, and partly because they teach in a socialized system that simultaneously elevates their status even as it makes teaching an impossible, demoralizing, and depressing job.  The cognitive dissonance this forces on the teachers is an uncomfortable mental realm to inhabit.

Proposed changes to the SAT show that the Left is gaming the system to bring egalitarianism to the inegalitarian world of higher education

standardized-testing-400x2651Here’s a story that’s familiar to many of my older readers, but one that may be surprising to my younger ones. Once upon a time, you’d sign up for the SAT a few weeks before you were to take it. Then, the night before the SAT, you’d go to bed a little earlier than usual. And that was it. That was SAT test prep — an early bedtime.

Nowadays, SAT test prep is a huge business. Here in affluent Marin, every teen I know has taken, is taking, or will take an SAT (or ACT) prep test. The good classes do two things: they tutor kids in the fundamentals of math and English that one needs for the test and they teach test taking techniques. These last are probably the most useful, since they show the kids the tricks of the test, and give them a way to translate test language into the academic language they already know, both in math and English. Most prep programs promise that, if the student gets with the program, he can expect to raise his test score by 200-400 points.

Today’s Most Emailed New York Times article announced that the SAT is about to undertake a big change:

Saying its college admission exams do not focus enough on the important academic skills, the College Board announced on Wednesday a fundamental rethinking of the SAT, ending the longstanding penalty for guessing wrong, cutting obscure vocabulary words and making the essay optional.

Some might call it a “dumbing down” change.  Others, however, could say that the SAT is changing simply to align itself with the realities of modern youth: thanks to bad teaching and the decline in reading anything but text messages (“r u thr? BRB.  K.  TTYL”), modern youth cannot write and has no vocabulary. That being the case, the realist would say, we may as well stop pretending when it comes to the standardized test.  (Me?  I think anything that encourages a good vocabulary should be preserved.  As Orwell knew, the fewer words you have, the fewer thoughts you have.)

Those are academic arguments.  What we’re really seeing here is another step in the road to a purely egalitarian approach to higher education.  In the old days, fewer students went to college. The rising numbers don’t come about just because the US population has grown every decade since forever. They also reflect the fact that, back in the day, a smaller percentage of the population went to college. The nation agreed that an educated citizenry was a good thing, but the societal agreement before the GI Bill was that a high school education was good enough for everyone except the “educated classes,” which meant the wealthy and upper middle classes.

The GI Bill changed that classist approach to education.  I’m not quibbling with the GI Bill’s effects.  The change was a wonderful thing, because it opened higher education to people who had the ability but, in the past, couldn’t meet the class and cost requirements.  College was still for the “educated class,” but we’d expanded the economic definition of an “educated class.”  With more young men able to go to college and get into higher payer jobs, the economy and the middle class boomed.

Of late, though, the Left has made it clear that it considers college today to be the high school of yesteryear: everyone should go, whether they have aptitude, interest, or money. It’s that last that’s especially important. Public schools may be lousy, but they’re an integral part of America’s economic infrastructure. They run on budgets set by state or local communities, and society as a whole has long agreed to pay for them (whether individual taxpayers have children or not), because they’re viewed as necessary institutions in a republican democracy.

Colleges, though, are expensive and getting more so. Much of this expense has nothing to do with education and everything to do with political correctness. Taxpayers have no say at all in how most colleges are run. They’re footing the bill in terms of taxpayer funding to public institutions, and grants and student loans to all institutions, but they’re shut out of management and oversight.  Additionally, contrary to the promise under the GI Bill and for many decades afterwards, college is no longer a gateway to well-paying jobs.  This can be traced to lots of things:  a lousy economy; more college grads depressing the market for said grads; the dramatic instability brought about by a changing internet economy (new jobs, new educators, new skills, etc.); and the lousy education too many college grads get, making them good at arguing Leftist PC polemics, but of little use otherwise.

Despite the expense, the lack of oversight, and the declining return on time and money invested, the Left insists more stridently than ever that, just as high school was once a necessity for all citizens, now college is — and it’s even better if we fund it for illegal residents too.

Where the Left runs into a problems is with the fact that, unlike public schools, which have to accept all students (legal or illegal) within the school district, colleges don’t. Despite the massive amount of public funding that comes their way, colleges get to pick and choose who will enter. How un-egalitarian . . . and how galling it is when the main comers are white and Asian middle class kids, rather than the huddled masses yearning to break free of America’s Democrat run ghettos.

Which loops me back to my starting point, which is prep classes for standardized tests. Those prep classes give the same white and Asian middle class kids yet another edge over the poor kids stuck in failing, union-run public schools in heavily Democrat districts. David Coleman, who is president of the College Board, which creates an administers the SAT, is done with that kind of inequality. He’s going to make the test easier. (Call it the Harrison Bergeron approach to test revisions.) His explicitly stated goal is to put those elitist test prep services out of business:

“It is time for the College Board to say in a clearer voice that the culture and practice of costly test preparation that has arisen around admissions exams drives the perception of inequality and injustice in our country,” Mr. Coleman said Wednesday. “It may not be our fault, but it is our problem.”

David Coleman is an idiot. (Come on, Bookworm!  Tell us what you really think.)  First, I strongly disagree with his Leftist drive to put small business out of business. Second, does Coleman actually think that the test prep businesses will just go away and that middle class parents will say, “Thank God our children don’t have to strive anymore”? Only an academic could be so dumb. What will actually happen is that the businesses will change their model and teach to the revised test. Indeed, some spokespeople in the industry have already announced that they intended to do precisely that:

While test-preparation companies said the SAT was moving in the right direction, with more openness and more free online test preparation, the changes were unlikely to diminish the demand for their services. “People will always want an edge,” said Seppy Basili, a vice president of Kaplan Test Prep. “And test changes always spur demand.”

None of the above means that it isn’t time to change the standardized tests. No one argues that they’re not as helpful in determining student performance as grades are.  But here’s the dirty little secret:  they never will be as good as grades — or, at least, grades from a good school. High performing students from high performing schools will do well in college. Sadly, high performing students from union and Democrat-run inner city schools do not do well. They are not ready for college. Or, to be more accurate, they’re not ready for the Ivy Leagues that hurl affirmative action admissions at their heads. Two years at a decent junior college or four years at a decent four-year college would suit them better. They might not get the corner office on Wall Street, but they’ll get out of the ghetto, which means that their children might get to Wall Street. Too bad that incrementalism — meaning a generational ascendance in America’s class structure — is anathema to the Left.

The bottom line is that, no matter how the test is re-jiggered, it will remain what it always was — an inaccurate tool to admissions offices smooth out slightly differences between the thousands of high schools scattered throughout America.

But back to the SAT. (By the way, this serpentine post is as close as you’ll ever get to having a conversation with me. I tend to stay near topic, but to wander around it a lot, bringing in varying threads and ideas that seem to me to be relevant and helpful.)

The fundamental problem isn’t the SAT and it isn’t test preps. Instead, it’s that our governing class has decided to make college as mandatory as high school. It’s doing it without a consensus or a plan, it’s paying for it on the back of the middle class, and it’s gaming the system to try to create an egalitarian outcome for decidedly inegalitarian institutions.

New Zealand experiment proves that fewer rules mean better behavior — at least in the playground

schoolyardAll of us have bemoaned the fact that the Nanny school is denying children the opportunity to learn skills that are essential to getting through life.  The teachers should supervise to make sure that things don’t get too much out of control, but otherwise, they need to leave the kids alone.  Kids need to get hurt to learn how to deal with pain (because life will toss lots of pain their way); they need to get dirty to teach their immune systems how to defend the body against invaders; and they need to fight, because they need to learn how to make up.

Most importantly, they need to play competitive games, and there are a lot of reasons for that.  They need to learn how to become gracious winners . . . and gracious losers.  They need to learn that they can draw on inner depths within themselves if they really want to win.  They need to learn that the world isn’t always fair.  They need to learn that those who try harder usually do better . . . and if they don’t do better, they still earn their peers’ respect.

Additionally — and kids intuitively know this — is that competition makes things more fun.  Every weekend, I usually have a pack of teens over at my house playing highly competitive games, everything from charades to Resistance. Woe betide the misguided adult who tries to make the games more fair (i.e., “everybody wins”). In that case, the kids simply leave because the fun is gone.

With this concept in mind, yesterday’s news brought stories out of England and New Zealand, offering two different approaches to child’s play. The English approach is to reject the playing fields of Eton entirely and, instead, to go the full Harrison Bergeron.  Thus, the British Rugby Football Union is changing the rules for the under 11 crowd to make sure that all players are equal — or else!

The key components are that tournaments will no longer have a winner, they will be round-robin only. Coaches must meet before each match to try to pick evenly matched teams and if any matches are proving too “one-sided” then coaches will be forced to “adjust” their teams at halftime to make them closer. Teams will no longer be streamed on ability but will play all matches with mixed ability groups.Teams who fail to follow the new guidelines will see all their club’s age-group sides thrown out of the tournament and face further disciplinary action.

Showing that a few in England still have some backbone, the article notes that parents first thought the new rules were a spoof and that many of them are objecting. Not all of them, mind you. Indeed, I bet that quite a few Marin parents would think this is a lovely idea. I should note that, when my children have come home over the years desperately unhappy about losing, it didn’t occur to them to do away with the notion of winning. What they wanted was another chance, no tactics, and better skills, bless their little hearts.

(For more on life in a Harrison Bergeron world, check out Bret Stephens brilliant piece at the Wall Street Journal.)

New Zealand is trying a different approach, and one that is proving to be successful.  That is, it’s not just working in the fevered imagination of ardent Leftist educators; it’s actually working on the playground itself:

Ripping up the playground rulebook is having incredible effects on children at an Auckland school.

Chaos may reign at Swanson Primary School with children climbing trees, riding skateboards and playing bullrush during playtime, but surprisingly the students don’t cause bedlam, the principal says.

The school is actually seeing a drop in bullying, serious injuries and vandalism, while concentration levels in class are increasing.

Principal Bruce McLachlan rid the school of playtime rules as part of a successful university experiment.

“We want kids to be safe and to look after them, but we end up wrapping them in cotton wool when in fact they should be able to fall over.”

To those of us living in the real world — one populated by actual children rather than Ivy Tower widget children — the Auckland school’s success was pre-ordained.  Provided that children are given reasonable limits that a reasonably enforced, they will not turn into Lord of the Flies monsters.  Instead, they will become the type of children we remember from our childhood — sometimes nice, sometimes mean, usually having fun, capable of solving most of their own problems, and better able to sit still in the classrooms.

How about a different approach to Holder’s demand that schools stop disciplinining minorities?

out-of-control-classroom-300x225It’s already old news now that Eric Holder has announced that schools must stop disciplining minority students because he feels they are disproportionately the subject of school discipline.  Many who read his edict thought, first, that a ukase against discipline based upon skin color, rather than conduct, was just about the most racist thing they’d ever seen; second, that this will be a disaster for minority children who are seeking some structure in their lives; and, third, that it marks the end of any discipline at all in schools, as each school drops to the lowest common denominator of possible behavior.

Robert Arvanitis has suggested that there is a different way to achieve racial parity — a way that would also expose how appalling Holder’s ideas are without turning schools into out-of-control war zones:

Holder now complains that valid, objective standards for school discipline are nonetheless racist if the results fall disproportionately on minorities.

Forget the rational rebuttals — it is unfair to all the other kids who are deprived of education; it ignores the root causes such as fatherless homes, causes engendered in turn by failed left policies.

Time to fight back in a smarter way. Let’s frustrate the left’s feedback mechanisms just as they themselves try to hijack and distort the real metrics of society.

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For every “favored-minority” student disciplined for real cause, we report the required multiple of non-favored kids on comparable status. I don’t mean lie, I mean we actually do things like “in-school suspension.” No harm to records, which are all sealed for college applications and recorded in aggregate anyway.

Now if Holder catches on and seeks separate categories like in and out of school suspension, then we refine it a bit. Everyone is on “in-school” suspension,” and held in separate classrooms. We spend some extra for dedicated tutors for such separate classrooms. And when the real troublemakers fail to show up, then hey, they’re marked delinquent as well.

My point is that there is no rigid rule system the statists can impose, that we cannot game. I have long experience with such things as tax, accounting, and regulatory frameworks. They all fall because of the algebra — it’s called “over-determined equations.” When there are more constraints than free variables, there will necessarily be contradictions and inconsistencies in the system for us to exploit.

So rule away Eric; check, and mate.

The Left tries to reframe our expectations

Teacher affirmationIn September 2011, I wrote a post about the way teachers constantly present themselves as the hardest working, most underpaid people in America.  I have a great deal of respect for teachers and, to the extent I deliver my kids to their care, I want them to be decent, knowledgeable, skillful, hardworking people — and that’s not something that can be had for free.  Nevertheless, I don’t see them as the martyrs that they see looking back from their mirrors.

I touched upon that subject again just this past September, after I’d gotten deluged by Facebook posts from teacher friends, all of them reminding us in a cute way that no one works harder in America than a teacher or for less money compared to their work output.  Again, with all due respect for teachers, I think many people, including the troops, would quibble with this.  I contrasted the Democrats’ deification of teachers and compared it with their denigration of doctors, something expressed obliquely through Obamacare.  Doctors train for years in their profession, work heinous hours, and truly hold people’s lives in their hands — and Obamacare is intended to increase their work load and cut their compensation.  My conclusion was that socialism prefers propagandists, something that teachers are perfectly situated to do, over providers.

And speaking of socialists and the way they value different categories of workers, Daniel Hannan has written about the British deification of its National Health Service, a system that is above reproach.  It’s not above reproach because it’s so wonderful, mind you.  It’s above reproach because no one is allowed to reproach it.  Hannan notes that there are two classes that speak well of the system:  those who work in it or are ideological supporters of socialized medicine, and those who are loudly grateful to have received decent treatment from it.  Hannan makes two points about this second category.  First, they’re amiable followers of the more strident ideologues.  Second, their gratitude that the system works is itself an indictment of the system’s myriad failings:

What of the wider constituency? What of the undoctrinaire people who say, with conviction, “the NHS saved my grandmother’s life”? Well, to make a rather unpopular point, she was saved by the clinicians involved, not by Britain’s unique prohibition of private finance in healthcare provision. In a country as wealthy as ours, we should expect a certain level of service. We can be grateful to the people involved without treating the whole process as a miracle.

When else, after all, do we become so emotional? Do we get off planes saying “I owe my life to British Airways: they flew me all the way here in one piece”? Of course not: that’s what is meant to happen. Our assumption doesn’t insult the pilots any more than expecting a certain level of competence in healthcare “insults our hardworking doctors and nurses”. On the contrary, it compliments them.

The elision of the “hardworking doctors and nurses” with the state monopoly that employs them is what allows opponents of reform to shout down any criticism. People who complain are treated, not as wronged consumers, but as pests. People who argue that there might be a better way of organising the system are treated, not as proponents of a different view, but as enemies.

Naturally, the above passage made me think of the obeisance we’re expected to pay to America’s teachers.  The demand that we recognize what wonderful martyrs they are is a tacit acknowledgment that too many of them are government drones who are, quite rationally, milking a system that gives itself up for milking.  This doesn’t mean we should denigrate teachers or take them for granted, but there’s a strong element of a “methinks we all do protest too much” mindset when it comes to the ritual demand that we acknowledge that teachers are society’s new martyrs.  After all, as Hannan said, they have a job to do and they should be doing it.

Incidentally, while Hannan doesn’t address the issue of teachers, he does point out that our being bullied into expressing exaggerated surprise and appreciation when there’s competence in a public sector area isn’t limited to Britain’s NHS.  His other example is the UN, which you all know I believe is one of the most vile, evil, antisemitic, child exploitative, anti-American, money-wasting institutions on earth, as well as a few other institutions that, coincidentally, are also usually anti-American and antisemitic:

Any organisation that is spared criticism becomes, over time, inefficient, insensitive, intolerant. It has happened to the United Nations. It has happened to the mega-charities. It happened, for a long time, to the European Union (though not over the past five years). The more lofty the ideal, the more reluctant people are to look at the grubby reality.

Cheers to Hannan for stating that, while the Emperor isn’t precisely walking around naked, his clothes are scarcely the golden, bejeweled garments that his sycophants claim he’s wearing.

Grade inflation in the Ivy Leagues (and their non-Ivy peers)

If these were Harvard students, all of them would have above-average grades

If these were Harvard students, all of them would have above-average grades

Sometimes my posts just re-write themselves.  This is me writing in May 2009:

Twenty years ago, a Stanford professor let me in on a little secret:  In a Lake Woebegone-ish way, all the students at Stanford are above average.  Truly.  The faculty was not allowed to fail anyone, so much so that, if it looked as if a student was failing, up to and including the final exam, the student was just “dropped out” of the class.  “A” grades were handed out like candy.  After all, Stanford got some of the best students in America.  You couldn’t let them, or their paying parents, down by giving them bad grades.  The notion that it might be good for them to compete against others as smart as they were, so as to winnow out the best of the best, was anathema.

And this is the latest report on the grade scam in the Ivy Leagues:

Life is very, very good for the select few who gain entrance to Harvard University as undergraduates. Thanks to Harvey Mansfield, the very rarest of phenomena, an outspokenly conservative member of the Faculty of Arts and Sciences, the world now knows that the average grade at Harvard College (the undergraduate portion of the Faculty of Arts and Sciences) is A minus.

Read the rest here, because Thomas Lifson has written a long, fact-filled, analytical post about the Ivy League (and comparable colleges) scam.

The Common Core political survey isn’t just politically offensive, it’s stupid

Rear view of class raising hands

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:

conservative-or-lib-questionaireLet’s just go down the list, shall we?

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.

Clearing out the inbox

I’d reached critical mass in the inbox.  It was either spend the day working through it or go nuclear which, in my case, doesn’t mean blowing up Israel, but does mean simply deleting everything in my inbox, knowing that there’s no way I will ever read what’s in there.  I chose not to go nuclear, and I am grateful for that decision, as I was able to find a lot of wonderful stuff.  Herewith, and in no particular order, stuff I culled from my inbox:

Following up on my post about the fact that we’re now living in a Soviet joke, a reader sent me this great one liner:  “Under Obamacare if you get sick, the doctors will pretend to heal you and the government will pretend to pay for it.”

One of my favorite bloggers, who happens to be a teacher, is Mike McDaniel.  He saw two newspaper articles that I’d seen too, and that I wanted to blog about, but never got around to.  Now, I’m grateful for my sloth, because Mike did a better job with them than I ever could have done.  The first is a bit frisky, but that’s only because (honest to God truth) an American university is giving students credit for attending a class that teaches them how to masturbateWhen I were a lad, we were so poor, we had to figure those things out by ourselves.  The other “education” story is less funny, because it has even more seriously implications for the joke that our university system has become.  Once you learn about micro-aggression, I think you’ll agree that we’re within striking distance of the end of the world as we know it.

Speaking of how far we’ve come, someone sent me a link to this project:  beautiful photo albums showing toys that were once an ordinary part of life but that would now result in a manufacturer’s lynching.  I have fond memories of “puffing” on toy cigarettes.  Interestingly, those sugary white rods with bright red tips never made me more inclined to try the real thing, which smelled bad and made me cough.

Oh, and while we’re on silly stuff, here’s a test for you:  in which countries are these various toilets located?  I got 50% correct and I can’t decide if that speaks well of me or badly.

In September, during the shutdown, someone sent me a link to a Red State story about GOP hostility to Ted Cruz.  Showing that political time is like dog years, in the two months and one day since Red State published that article, the world has turned upside down, thanks to the Obamacare exchange roll-out.  Suddenly, the article seems like a relic.  The GOP is still hostile, but it now has a serious problem with the fact that Ted Cruz was right.  (I was right too; just sayin’.)

I spoke today on the phone with Stella Paul and it explained a lot about why her articles are so insightful, intelligent, and beautifully written.  She is insightful, intelligent, and beautifully spoken.  (I always knew Obama’s books were fakes because nobody who wrote as well as he ostensibly did could speak as badly as he does off the cuff.  The person who wrote Obama’s books loves language; Obama does not.)  You can catch a lot of Stella’s stuff at American Thinker, such as her delightful and astute attack against the Obamacare exchange.  She’s also publishing at Leeb’s Market Forecast, with her most recent article there about the scary fact that we are trapped inside a government Matrix and only a few brave folks are willing to take a stand against it.  When it comes to Hollywood, Stella includes in her article one of the most frightening quotations I’ve ever heard:  “‘We know from research that when people watch entertainment television, even if they know it’s fiction, they tend to believe that the factual stuff is actually factual,’ said grant recipient Martin Kaplan of the University of Southern California’s Norman Lear Center.”  Lee Habeeb’s proposed alternate TV channel can’t come fast enough.

One of the fascinating things about the Obamacare debacle is the way in which the New York Times has desperately been trying to cover up Obama’s lies.  “Incorrect promise” tops the list of course, but the Times is spinning so frantically, it’s running out of neologisms, neo-phrases, and outright lies about lies in order to cover for Obama’s forked tongue.  They should be better at this than they are.  As Lee Stranahan wrote a month ago, the Left has always lied about itself and its motives.

Thomas Friedman may be nominally Jewish, but he’s nominally Jewish the way Noam Chomsky is.  These guys are anti-Semitic Jews who are “thoughtful” enough to provide cover for all the other anti-Semites who aren’t Jews.  (“Yeah, so what if I say a Jewish cabal rules the world and therefore all Jews need to be destroyed?  Some of my best friends are Jews and they say the same thing.”)  Elliot Abrams caught Friedman in a doozy of an anti-Semitic screed, one that could have fit comfortably in the pages of The Protocols of the Elders of Zion. Friedman isn’t just a fool and a hypocrite, he’s a fool and a hypocrite who worships at the altar of totalitarianism and will happily pave the way for the next round of gas chambers — although he’ll pride himself on the fact that, when the time comes, he’ll weakly protest that Jews shouldn’t actually be sent there.

Since the Obama administration has been preparing talking points for Democrats to use to browbeat friends and relatives about Obamacare during Thanksgiving, Ace prepared talking points for conservatives.  Very worth reading.

“Mr. Obama, we at Fox News are not the problem.  You are.”  (Hat tip:  Earl):

A friend of mine, a former Air Force pilot, wrote a book, called The Unusual Travels of Lee and Tammy.  I was happy to leave this review at Amazon:

Mr. Strom has written a charming, imaginative book about a gateway between our moon and another world that can support human life. Funnily enough, Mr. Strom’s writing style reminded me strongly of Damon Runyon’s wonderful stories (which served as the basis for “Guys and Dolls.”). His dialogue has that same present tense formality that Runyon uses, which allows us to see the characters as from a slight distance.

The plot is straightforward: several astronauts from the world’s major countries are sent to the moon for a scientific study. Lee, an Armenian, accidentally falls through a portal into another world. Once he convinces his fellow astronauts of his existence, four of them, including Tammy, who becomes Lee’s romantic interest, explore the world. They discover its connection to earth, and have some unnerving experiences as they navigate their way through this strange, yet familiar, world.

I actually expected the book to be a more “Star Wars” type adventure with lots of shoot ‘em stuff. It’s not, though. It manages, instead, to imagine a realistic scenario, one that sees far away scientists make an exciting new discovery, and then follows through on how both the scientists and those back home (both funders and governments) respond to the possibilities of this discovery.

And lastly, during the shutdown, someone made a wonderful poster about the National Park Service employees who seemed to be so willing to carry out Obama’s orders to punish Americans — especially those who served our country so bravely — by closing down open-air parks.  Even though the shutdown is over, it’s worth reminding ourselves what happened in October, because Obama has made it very plain that he will not hesitate to mobilize America’s unionized government workers against Americans:

National Park Service

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.