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Monthly Archives: September 2010

In a drive to discourage unhealthy dietary choices, San Francisco today banned “Happy Meals” at McDonald’s restaurants. Instead, all fast-food outlets will now be required to serve “Sad Meals” as a way to make tasty food unappealing to kids.

The new regulation outlaws giving away cheerful plastic toys with each Happy Meal, as well as any similar enticing promotion at other fast-food franchises. In their place, restaurants must now include items which make children feel bad or ashamed.

The vote to replace “Happy Meals” with “Sad Meals” in the city was unanimous, with the San Francisco Board of Supervisors voting 9-0 on the legislation, officially entitled the “Eat and DIE! Amendment.”

“It should be the responsibility of the industry to promote healthy choices,” said Supervisor Nan E. Stait, chief sponsor of the legislation. “If we can ensure that kids feel really awful when they eat food they crave, we can slowly wean them off high-fat and high-sodium diets.”

Starting on January 1, 2011, all nationally franchised restaurants doing business in San Francisco will be required to include creepy, insulting and/or humiliating promotional toys with any meal that fails to meet the city’s exacting nutritional guidelines.

The “Sinister Clown” wind-up toy

Restaurants will have several options from which to choose, with various designs unveiled during today’s San Francisco Board of Supervisors meeting:

  • Circular metallic stickers featuring a frowny-face and the words “I’m a fatso!” or “Lard-butt.” Parents will be required to affix the stickers to their children’s foreheads during meals eaten in public.
  • Wind-up toys which speak any of ten different phrases, including “You’re morbidly obese!”, “Sure, keep stuffing your fat little face,” and “You make me sick, you disgusting pig!” Children can choose either the Sinister Clown, Nagging Granny, or Scary Bully designs.
  • Miniature flipbooks featuring full-color photos of actual surgical procedures taken during heart bypass operations and liposuction sessions.
  • A new line of collectible figurines called Chubbies, with names such as Friendless Fritz, Diabetic Debbie, and Acne Ashly.

“We will roll out additional promotional designs over the upcoming months,” said Reg U. Latory-Ovareech, spokesman for the Board of Supervisors. “The worse we make these kids feel now, the better off they’ll be in the long run.”

Zombietime post about Ayers’ book Prairie Fire leads to his denial of Emeritus status

During Barack Obama’s 2008 run for the presidency, I dug up an extremely rare original edition of Prairie Fire, the forgotten communist manifesto co-written by Obama’s friend and colleague William Ayers, and I published excerpts of the book at zombietime.

As I wrote at the time, “This essay only exists to correct and unequivocally debunk claims routinely made by the mainstream media over the last few weeks … that William Ayers wasn’t such a bad guy after all, and that it is no shame to be associated with him.” Read the full essay to see the full extent of the devastating evidence against Ayers.

In my exposé, I highlighted what I thought were the most noteworthy aspects of Prairie Fire, including the part where Ayers brags about and then lists in detail the numerous terrorist bombings he carried out in the 1970s; where he describes himself as a communist, and cites his desire for a communist revolution to overthrow the United States; where he cites the many motivations driving the Weather Underground’s terror campaign, most of which had nothing whatsoever to do with the Vietnam War (as the media endlessly claims to this day); and so on. I also listed the many close links between Ayers and Obama.

Almost as an aside, I pointed out halfway through the report an absurd detail that I noticed by accident when scanning one of the book’s pages — that Ayers and his co-authors had dedicated Prairie Fire to (among dozens of lesser known criminals and radicals) Sirhan Sirhan, the assassin who killed Robert F. Kennedy.

If this had been an isolated fact, it would have been outrageous enough, but compared to the numerous other outrages in the book, it practically didn’t even seem worth mentioning — at least to my mind.

Boy, was I wrong.

As I had hoped, the report did ignite a massive amount of publicity and coverage. But most of that coverage barely mentioned most of the damning facts which I had highlighted; instead, to my astonishment, the blog posts and TV reports and newspaper articles focused almost entirely on the Sirhan Sirhan dedication, which somehow struck a nerve in the national consciousness.

Unfortunately, my Prairie Fire essay failed to derail Obama’s run for the White House, but now two years later it has had an unexpected side effect — a fitting and ironic postscript to the whole affair:

Bill Ayers denied emeritus status at UIC

Son of RFK — now U. of I. board chair — rips prof for dedicating book to his father’s assassin

When retiring University of Illinois at Chicago professor Bill Ayers co-wrote a book in 1973 [sic], it was dedicated in part to Sirhan Sirhan, the assassin of Robert F. Kennedy.

That came back to haunt Ayers when the U. of I. board, now chaired by Kennedy’s son, considered his request for emeritus status Thursday. It was denied in a unanimous vote.

Before the vote, an emotional Chris Kennedy spoke out against granting the status to Ayers.

“I intend to vote against conferring the honorific title of our university to a man whose body of work includes a book dedicated in part to the man who murdered my father, Robert F. Kennedy,” he said.

“There is nothing more antithetical to the hopes for a university that is lively and yet civil, or to the hopes of our founding fathers for their great experiment of a self-governing people, than to permanently seal off debate with one’s opponents by killing them.”

Take that, Bill Ayers!


[Scan of part of the dedication page; see the original report for the full-page scan and more details.]

See also Michelle Malkin: Weather Underground terrorist Bill Ayers denied emeritus status

Take the Christine O’Donnell/Jimmy Carter Quiz!

September 19th, 2010 - 1:11 pm

Each of the following ten quotes is by either Christine O’Donnell (candidate for the Delaware Senate seat) or Jimmy Carter (39th President of the United States). Can you guess which quote is by which politician?

Write down your guesses (no peeking!), and then check out the answers on page 2.


The Christine O’Donnell/Jimmy Carter Quiz

Who said each of the following quotes: Christine O’Donnell, or Jimmy Carter?

1. “To my amazement, I was besieged with questions about my sex life. At first I thought this was just a passing joke, but I was wrong. It became the dominant news story of my candidacy, and my popularity dropped precipitously. Any attempt to explain the Christian theology behind my answer only served to keep the issue alive.”

2. “I have an absolute, total commitment as a human being, as an American, as a religious person to Israel … Israel is the fulfillment of biblical prophecy.”

3. “Feeling a bit presumptuous, I wrote to [an evolutionary scientist] diasagreeing with this premise and asserting that there were factors other than pure happenstance that influenced the course of evolution.”

4. “Because I’m just human and I’m tempted and Christ set some almost impossible standards for us. The Bible says, ‘Thou shalt not commit adultery.’ Christ said, ‘I tell you that anyone who looks on a woman with lust has in his heart already committed adultery.’ I’ve looked on a lot of women with lust. I’ve committed adultery in my heart many times…. This is something that God recognizes, that I will do and have done, and God forgives me for it. But that doesn’t mean that I condemn someone who not only looks on a woman with lust but who leaves his wife and shacks up with somebody out of wedlock. Christ says, don’t consider yourself better than someone else because one guy screws a whole bunch of women while the other guy is loyal to his wife. The guy who’s loyal to his wife ought not to be condescending or proud because of the relative degree of sinfulness.”

5. “This set of principles, rooted in my Christian faith, has both shaped me and been shaped by my personal experiences, and it remains to this day a central element of my identity.”

6. (Quote from someone commenting about the candidate running for office) “It is not presumptuous to say, as there is enough evidence already, that a vast number of [O'Donnell or Carter] supporters consist of aggressive evangelicals whose main goal is to ‘Christianize’ our country; that is to say, to convert Americans to a particular brand of religious obscurantism. Needless to say, most, or many [O'Donnell/Carter]-fundamentalists despise complete intellectual and religious liberty.”

7. “Being born again is a new life, not of perfection but of striving, stretching, and searching — a life of intimacy with God through the Holy Spirit.”

8. “But if we aspire to grow as human beings, we should struggle to close the gap by making our inner selves truer reflections of our own highest values, which, for me, grow from my Christian faith.”

9. “…There are basic principles that, for me, have never changed. For a Christian, the life and teachings of Jesus offer a sound moral foundation that includes all the most basic elements that should guide us.”

10. “Yes, I have my personal beliefs, and these questions come from statements I made over fifteen years ago. I was in my twenties, and very excited and passionate about my new-found faith. But I assure you my faith has matured, and when I go to Washington, D.C., it’ll be the Constitution on which I base all of my decisions, not my personal beliefs.”

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Impeach Breyer?

September 14th, 2010 - 2:22 pm

Terrorism works.

Supreme Court Justice Stephen Breyer proved this once again yesterday when he caved in to terrorist threats — or rather, the potentiality of terrorist threats — and in the process demonstrated how rickety the main support beam of our Constitution is, at least while people like Breyer are sitting on the bench.

In an interview with George Stephanopoulos, Breyer implied that the First Amendment may not protect speech that inflames the passions of violent people halfway across the globe:

Last week we saw a Florida Pastor — with 30 members in his church — threaten to burn Korans which lead to riots and killings in Afghanistan. We also saw Democrats and Republicans alike assume that Pastor Jones had a Constitutional right to burn those Korans. But Supreme Court Justice Stephen Breyer told me on “GMA” that he’s not prepared to conclude that — in the internet age — the First Amendment condones Koran burning.

Here’s their exchange (taken from the video on the page linked above), after Stephanopolous introduces the Koran-burning case and how it relates to free speech:

Stephanopolous: The conversation is now global.
Breyer: Indeed. And you can say with the Internet, you can say this: Holmes said it doesn’t mean you can shout ‘fire’ in a crowded theater. Well, what is it? Why? Because people will be trampled to death. And what is the ‘crowded theater’ today? What is ‘being trampled to death’?

Breyer is implying here that in the Internet age, the entire digitally connected world is one vast crowded theater, and whoever says anything to cause a mass panic, or a violent reaction anywhere on Earth could be violating the “don’t yell ‘FIRE!’ in a crowded theater” exception to the Constitutional principle of free speech.

There are so many things wrong with this line of thinking that I hardly know where to begin. Off the top of my head:

Should the Behaviors or Opinions of Non-Citizens Have Any Bearing on the US?

The behavior, or possible future behavior, of people outside the United States should have no bearing whatsoever on our laws or on the interpretation of our Constitution. Down this road lies the complete extirpation of our national sovereignty. Should we jettison the Second Amendment because other countries ban guns and disapprove of our gun-happy society? Should we abandon even having national borders because so many foreigners want to violate our immigration laws? And, most pointedly, should we allow the threats of irrational mobs in the mountains of Pakistan to influence one iota the legal structure of our nation?

Justice Breyer thinks so, apparently.

Jihad is Not a Natural Phenomenon

The “crowded theater” example refers specifically to a situation whereby false or misleading speech can lead to accidental or unintentional death or injury due to the undirected behavior of a panicked crowd. Under this principle, to cite a well-known example, Orson Welles could have theoretically been charged with disturbing the peace for his infamous 1938 War of the Worlds broadcast which convinced many terrified Americans that we had been invaded by Martians (had in fact anyone been injured in the ensuing panic — luckily, no one was, and Welles was never charged). But that is an entirely different animal from speech which may incite some malefactor to take offense and potentially cause harm. For example, would it be illegal to stand up in Yankee Stadium and yell “Go Red Sox!” if by so doing you incited Yankees fans to start punching Bostonians? Wouldn’t the assailants be the ones to blame, not the Red Sox fan? Would it be illegal to praise Martin Luther King Jr. at a KKK rally, because you may incite the Klan members to attack innocent black bystanders? Wouldn’t it be a bit more logical to arrest the KKK members who committed the violence rather than the person whose statement pissed them off?

You Can’t Yell Fire in a Crowded Internet

If we take Breyer’s argument to its conclusion, then any word spoken, or any action taken, anywhere in America, could be considered to have taken place on the global stage for a global audience, because, by golly, someone could record it on their iPhone, upload it to YouTube, it could go viral, and within 10 minutes a million enraged Muslims are calling for a global jihad — all because you wrote the letters “K-O-R-A-N” on a scrap of paper and tossed it into your backyard barbecue pit, as your tipsy drinking buddy filmed it. This would mean the end of the presumption of privacy, as the existence of a globally interconnected world transforms anything you do or say anywhere, in any setting, into a potential “public” act. Breyer is suggesting that not only are you forbidden from yelling “FIRE!” in a crowded theater, you can’t yell “FIRE!” anywhere, because word might reach the theater that someone somewhere yelled “FIRE!”

Where exactly do you draw the line, if Breyer’s principle is applied? As Ed Morrisey insightfully pointed out at Hot Air, “Breyer’s argument would put government in charge of judging the qualitative value of all speech.” And that’s the first step (and the second and third step as well) toward totalitarianism.

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As the proprietor of the Mohammed Image Archive, I get a continuous stream of letters from Muslims around the world, offering their opinions about me, my Web site, Islam, and the West. Every now and then, when I get a free moment (not often these days), I update the Archive’s Emails From Readers page with a selection of the latest arrivals. And a few months ago I posted some representative examples of the kind of communiqués I get from Muslims in an essay I wrote about the Mohammed Image Archive.

But the letters keep pouring in. Hardly an hour goes by without at least one email from a reader somewhere in the Muslim world telling me exactly what is on his or her mind.

To mark 9/11 this year, I present below some of the emails I have received in just the last week. (All emails are unedited and appear here exactly as they arrived, except to abbreviate the senders’ full names.)

Let the dialogue begin!

From: H. Nehal
To: The Mohammed Image Archive
Subject: Suggestion

Hey, my name is H. Nehal. I’m from Pakistan. You can make this website even better if you post some of your picctures on it with you little dick in her ass, or maybe you can post some of your mother’s milky boobs. Your hairy ass’ pictures will work just ass fine.

You’re drawing our Prophet Salallaho Alaihay Wassalam, but you’re actually showing your own thinking by these pictures. Of how you think of your Gods. Our Prophet was a great person, and these pictures you’re drawing won’t do any harm to him or us, instead it might take you by surprize. Do you know there was a man who drew Mohhammed S.A.W.W’s pictures and after two weeks he died of electric shock?

If not then now you do. I hope you and your whole team die the same way. No, actually, in a much worse manner. Maybe by burning alive or drowning, as Prophet S.A.W.W said that this was the worst suffering for a dying person.

Allah sees all, and He is the one who created your filthy soul and rotten body, and He’ll be the one to cut it into pieces one by one.

You’ll rot in hell and you’ll be made to drink blood and puss. That’s what happens when you provoke someone’s religion.
Rot in hell you bastard.

Feaman-e-Allah.

From: Anees

may Allah curse you remove those pictures of our prophet.

From: sanyam S. (India)
Subject: Re – strict actions needed

I am syed hasan , the muslim leader , & Head of military forces , ISLAM . I went through your website , & I immediately want the name of the owner . The way he dealt with the beliefes of islamic & christiatnity followers are punishable under law & , the images of MUHAMMAd he published , i would not even like to split on his face . I am giving you the warning if these pics are not deleted imeediately , i will take the case to national cort , saudi arabia & also to president of USA . I have given name of your site in media of India , California & mecca . & You will consequently see thow the owner of tis site will be severely punished . I have accomodated many christians & muslims , officers & they are ready to take immediate actions . the punishment can even be death sentence on appeal of all muslims & christians . i am writing this so that if possible delete your website or give me the numbers & details of the owner , for immediate actions .
Syen hasan
Muslim legal head,
Officer of national military mecca

From: zubair m. (Pakistan)

oy dog why you make cartoon of our beloved prophet. you fuck bitch of son hramzady

From: Emre C. S.

Thanks for this great site. You made a service to humanity. I’m living in Istanbul, Turkey. Despite the false statistics and European perspective, religion here is weakening each day. Ruling class and poor people following them seems like devout muslims, but there’s a large crack in the fast growing middle-class community, which could clearly be seen since the Internet growing popular in the early 2000′s. People will learn the freedom of speech this way or another. And depiction of some 1400 years old cunning Arabian dude won’t be a problem anymore. The destruction of religion is key to the free conscious humanbeing, and sites like you are accelerating this process. I just can’t thank you enough.

From: v. vierra
Subject: stu**d

Prophet Muhammad is not as ugly as it , stu**d..
He is not as ugly as you..

From: Mr. Budin
Subject: What is your motivation??

What is your aiming by doing this exactly?? What is your motivation? You have to know that for islam and for muhammad, what your doing is nothing, you can’t make trust declined for islam, or even this religion will gone from this world by publishing that picture.. But for sure.. for the moslem community, you just doing that to insult and you will face the risk for yourself. Same as one of you will stand and try to kill us.. if we draw your leadership, your messangger, or your “God” (if you believe in God) in a bad way… You can’t claim that all of you is on the right way.. or that is your human right, by insult the others… That is really not a peacefully!!

From: arif c. (Germany)
Subject: Stop Drawing Sketches of Muhammad S.A.W.W (P.B.U.H)

There are many other ways for freedom of speech. I ask you not to play with the emotions of Muslims and remove all the related stuff from your web site.

Thanks.

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Proposals for an Educational Renaissance

September 3rd, 2010 - 5:02 pm

In the first four parts of this essay I touched on some of the things that are wrong with the American educational system. (And I only scratched the surface, really — one could make a career out of documenting endemic flaws in our schools.) But focusing on the negative and complaining doesn’t solve problems. So let’s get constructive and figure a way out of this mess.

This final post in my five-part back-to-school essay is all about solutions: How can we fix education in America?

Below, I will outline my vision for a new paradigm in education. Realistically, I don’t expect all — or even any — of these proposals to be adopted anytime soon by the entrenched powers-that-be. But we’ve got to start somewhere, so let the edu-renaissance begin.

No single approach or solution will solve the multifaceted deficiencies in the way our children are currently being educated. So we must attack the problem on several conceptual levels simultaneously. Hence, it may not be necessary to implement every single one of the proposals outlined below, but if even just a few were adopted, it would be a significant step in the right direction.

Most of the proposals below are not original to me: Some are already gaining widespread support, while some are excellent new ideas just beginning to get traction. And a few are fresh concepts I came up with to help stimulate a rebirth of American education.

Readers of all political persuasions are encouraged to propose and discuss their own ideas — and to critique mine — in the comments section.

 


 

Educational structures
 

• Introduce competition into the educational marketplace.

This is a no-brainer. Parents across America are already clamoring for a voucher or tax-credit system whereby funding follows each individual student to any public, charter or private school of the parents’ choosing.

The more competition there is in the educational marketplace, the greater the pressure will be for schools to excel. The only way to attract students would be to create an outstanding school. If parents have options, they can take their kids out of bad schools and put them in better ones.

If free enterprise works for the economic system (demonstrated by explosive economic growth over the last 400 years), then why not for the educational system as well?

A national voucher or tax-credit system would allow thousands of exciting new charter schools and commercial/private schools to pop up in every community across America, leading to a revolution (the good kind of revolution) in school excellence.

Until the public school system is fixed, we should emphasize school choice — which would not only foster the creation of new schools, but also put great pressure on existing public schools to shape up, lest the competition steal away all their students.

Furthermore, the wider the variety of choice, the more satisfactorily each parent will be able to find a school to match their ideological, political, educational or religious preference. Everybody wins.

• Encourage homeschooling

Homeschooling to this day remains a rarity in America. It is generally perceived as mostly the domain of religious parents who want to save their kids from the horrors of secularism in the public schools. Because of this, homeschooling is stigmatized in mainstream culture as the province of extremists. But as more parents wake up to the pervasive radical politicization of many public schools, homeschooling to save kids from political indoctrination is likely to grow more commonplace, as it should.

The time has come to lift the stigma against homeschooling, which instead should be actively promoted as a way for parents of all stripes to customize their kids’ educations. Want your kid to focus intently on math and science with no political content whatsoever? Create the curriculum yourself. Want your kid to read all the great classics of literature? Get out the books and start teaching.

Homeschooling should be included in any voucher or tax-rebate scheme. It should be normalized as a standard option in education, and no longer be viewed as offbeat or bizarre.

Homeschooling teacher-parents should develop cooperative networks through which they can share resources. If one parent has personally developed an outstanding lesson plan for geometry or spelling or Cold War history, there should be a mechanism through which he or she could share that curriculum with like-minded fellow teacher-parents. If one parent has a special skill which his or her own child has already mastered, and another parent has a different skill, then kids can “trade parents” for several days and learn new skills. For example, if one parent is fluent in Mandarin and another parent is a computer whiz, they can trade places for a while, maximizing the educational horizons of both families.

Expanding on the concept further: Home-teachers with unique talents can begin to hold group classes in their homes for several homeschooled students at once. For example, in a local network of 30 homeschool families, one parent-teacher can teach pre-calculus to all students in the network, and then on a different day another parent-teacher can teach them all conversational Spanish. Think of it as an educational potluck.

This system would also remove one of the other main concerns the average American has about homeschooling, that kids will become isolated and not sufficiently socialized through interactions with other children.

Municipal homeschooling associations can band together and take all of the city’s homeschooled kids on field trips as a group, fostering the sense that the homeschooling community is itself a “virtual school,” increasing bonding and friendships among the otherwise isolated children.

Homeschooling should take its proper place as equal in stature to public schools, charter schools, or private schools.

• Break the monopoly of public education, but keep it as a safety net

Public schooling will always have its flaws, mainly because it necessarily must be geared to the lowest common denominator. Even so, we cannot get rid of it entirely, for three basic reasons:

- Most parents do not have the time, patience, expertise or interest to either homeschool or spend a lot of effort choosing amongst a panoply of confusing small-school options. Large public schools will likely continue to be the default fallback option for many students.

- Some parents prefer that their children attend large public schools to help with their socialization and to increase their life experience as early as possible, and to prevent the potential isolation that sometimes accompanies homeschooling or specialty-schooling.

- We don’t want to revert to the era before public schooling when education was restricted to the wealthy elite. Public schools should remain as a safety net to ensure that all American children get an education, however underprivileged or dysfunctional their home lives may be.

That said, we need to break the monopoly of publicly financed mass-education. Attendance at large public schools should not be compulsory, or even encouraged. Charter schools, private schools, small schools and homeschooling should be considered the preferred way to go, and students should only be sent to large public schools as an emergency fallback if no better options are available in that area or neighborhood, or if (as occasionally happens) the local public school is outstanding in its own right.
 
 

Curriculum
 

• Get back to basics

Political and religious bias in our school curriculum have spun completely out of control and contaminate every aspect of public education. Schools should jettison anything even resembling politicization and focus instead on nailing down basic skills, formerly known as “the three Rs”: Reading, writing and arithmetic. Too many students are cruising through school and even getting high school diplomas while remaining partly illiterate and lacking basic math skills. Enough! First teach every child how to read and write at an adult level, and have decent math/logic skills, and only after that is achieved should we even begin to worry about or argue over the issue of political bias in later grades.

• End the practice of mass-adoption of a few major textbooks

Textbooks are so 19th century. Printing is so 19th century. The textbook wars (detailed in the first four parts of this essay) can be avoided entirely by encouraging and fostering the district-by-district, school-by-school, or even class-by-class adoption of customized, individualized or small-scale instructional materials catering to local standards or teacher preferences. We don’t need to be arguing about the content of one-size-fits-all textbooks with print runs in the millions, because there shouldn’t even be one-size-fits-all textbooks. Screen-based instructional materials (i.e. for computers, Kindle/iPad/mobile-device platforms, etc.) can be distributed to students at a fraction of the cost of traditional paper-and-ink textbooks, and each school district or teacher can choose their favorites and not conform to stifling, dumbed-down, politicized or out-of-date textbooks.

• Form centrist national pressure groups to make textbooks indoctrination-free

Fantasies of customizable digitized instructional materials are nice to dream about but realistically are still several years from implementation. Until then, level-headed citizens should form pressure groups, think tanks, PACS, and/or lobbying groups to demand the removal of any whiff of indoctrination or political bias (left or right) from the curriculum. We need an uprising of angry citizens — the educational equivalent of the Tea Party — to strike fear into the hearts of those who push their agendas on our kids.

• Get politics and religion out of science classes

No more religious ideology masked as scientific skepticism. No more politics in the guise of truth. No more esteem-building piffle. Stop! Science classes should be pure science and nothing else. To get specific: Eliminate “intelligent design” in biology or anthropology classes; stop the politically-driven focus on anthropogenic global warming in high-school science; and no more multicultural tokenism in the history of science. Science education needs to be totally free of any indoctrination or politics, left/right/whatever.

• Introduce and popularize “skills survey” courses

Too much of our school curriculum is totally disconnected from the skill-sets needed to succeed in the real world. Even students who get good grades in history, art, social studies and science can graduate without a clue about how to get a job or what they even want to do with their lives.

Not every student is going to become an academic or have a liberal-arts-based career. To correct this glaring deficiency in our educational priorities, I propose that all public schools introduce a new type of required course in which students are briefly exposed to a wide variety of realistic careers and skills to help them decide what they may want to do upon graduating from high school or college. These skills-survey classes should always be not graded but instead be given on a simple pass/not-pass basis — students pass just for showing up and participating. No tests, no quizzes, no assessment — just observation.

The purpose of the class is exposure — to let students sample real-world careers, and get a taste of skills unknown to them. Even if a student doesn’t ever get a job in any of the fields covered by the course, he or she will learn how the world works. Each section can last anywhere from ten minutes, to an hour, or a week, or any level in between — just enough time to explain and demonstrate the basics. Examples of skills or careers covered by the course can include (but are not limited to):

• Retail skills, such as how to operate a cash register, order products, keep track of inventory;
• Carpentry and basic home repair;
• Basic contemporary computer skills, such as how to send an email, set up a blog or Web page, do simple programming, etc.
• Business and entrepreneurial fundamentals, such as how to identify an untapped market, found a small company, deal with government regulations, etc.
• How to effectively win an argument, or engage in an adult-level debate; a brief survey of logical fallacies;
• A visit to a hospital to learn the basics of nursing skills, and see what doctors do in real-world settings;
• Car repair; and the briefest explanation of how engines, carburetors, transmissions, etc. work;
• The basics of electrical circuitry, and what an electrician does;
• Plumbing, and how the plumbing system works;
• Gardening fundamentals, and how to grow your own food;
• Data entry (formerly known as “typing”);
• Any ideas or field trips which teachers can arrange, such as: visiting a local airport and sitting in the pilot’s seat of a small aircraft; going behind-the-scenes at a local television studio; going on a ride-along with the police or fire department; etc.
• …and so on; the options are limitless.

In each case, the exposure will necessarily be brief and very incomplete, but that’s OK; the goal is not to master every skill covered, but rather to be exposed to a wide variety of skills and careers that may spur interest for later pursuit.

 
 

Pedagogy (methods of instruction)
 

• Group students by ability, not age or ethnicity; bring back “tracking”

One of the problems I didn’t address earlier in this essay is the issue of “tracking,” or grouping students according to ability, rather than by age or other factors. Many districts in America still practice tracking, but many others (especially in “progressive” areas) decry tracking as elitist/racist/discriminatory. The issue often comes down to this: Schools in wealthier neighborhoods are often much better learning environments than schools in poor neighborhoods. This happens even in districts where the funding is legally required to be equal for each school; the better schools in wealthier neighborhoods spend their funds to improve learning, whereas schools in impoverished areas necessarily spend their money on discipline, security, repairs, etc., to the detriment of learning. Hence there will always be more poor parents seeking to send their kids to schools in better neighborhoods, than vice versa.

There’s no universally satisfactory solution to this dilemma. The “progressive” solution is to equally distribute the good students and the disruptive students into each school throughout the district, through bussing and/or a random lottery system. The problem with this approach is that a small number of disruptive students can destroy the learning environment of an entire class or school. It’s foolish to sprinkle each classroom with equal numbers of disruptive students and attentive students, because even one disruptive student in a classroom can spoil the learning atmosphere for the rest of the class. What’s the alternative? To group all the good students together so they can learn well together, and then in a separate school or class place all the disruptive or struggling students together, so they can receive special help and/or instruction customized to their needs. But you already know where this is headed: In those districts where there is racial disparity, and where that racial disparity reflects economic disparity, you may end up with what appears to be racially segregated schools or classes, even though the segregation was not based on race but rather was based entirely on disruptiveness and academic performance.

The time has come to shake off the ghosts of the past: Students at all levels would be better served if they were grouped according to ability, rather than by age or by ethnicity (to satisfy the shallow demands for “diversity” at all costs).

• Have “small schools” or “departments” within large high schools

A new trend in urban high schools is to divide each campus into departments, or “small schools” as they are sometimes called; in other words, to model high schools after universities, whereby students can choose a “major” or area of focus. I think this is a good idea.

This way, parents and students can select the political bias of their choice, rather then be subjected to school-wide indoctrination. It also allows for local standards to prevail without making them compulsory for every student. Thus, for example, a school in a left-leaning area such as Berkeley High School (which already has a “small school” system on its campus) allows students the option of signing up for the “School of Social Justice and Ecology” — which is generally advertised as being overtly leftist — while other students can choose less-political “small schools” or stay in the general population. At the same time, a high school school in a conservative area can have its own on-campus “department” with a decidedly right-leaning or patriotic bent, which students can voluntarily choose or avoid as they wish. This allows the political bias to be concentrated in self-selected enclaves within each school, and allows the general school environment to remain more politically neutral. Each school can have departments that reflect local politics and standards — just so long as they are voluntary and honestly advertised.

I wouldn’t even mind departments based on religious or cultural identities; a “small school” in Waco, Texas could teach Christian morals; a small school in Dearborn, Michigan could offer Islamic studies; a small school in Kiryas Joel, New York could focus on Judaica; all publicly funded. This way, the remaining non-Christian/non-Muslim/non-Jewish students won’t be forced to endure a school-wide religious culture which would make them feel excluded, whereas the religious students wouldn’t be compelled to learn in a thoroughly secularized environment. I view this as a potential win-win solution, but it remains to be seen if it could be implemented fairly and withstand legal challenges.

• Allow teachers with creative ideas to be idiosyncratic

It’s hard to not be inspired watching the brilliant and quirky teachers depicted in films like Stand and Deliver, Up the Down Staircase, and more recently Precious. But in the real world such teachers are few and far between. We should encourage creativity on the part of enthusiastic instructors by freeing them from the regimentation of national standards and a rigid curriculum. Forcing every teacher to be an identical drone teaching the identical mediocre lessons in the identical way is a recipe for failure. Idiosyncratic methods should be encouraged, not punished, and the way to do that is by decreasing reliance on stifling national standards.
 
 

Transparency and Independence
 

• Parental notification

Parents have a right to know what their kids are being taught. Too often we hear horror stories of politically biased teachers or administrators enforcing a “don’t tell your parents” rule in which students are discouraged from discussing controversial classroom lessons at home. This needs to end. “Parental notification” should become standard practice for every class, whereby at the start of each semester parents are given a full list of of all texts and assignments. The more parents know about what’s happening in school, the more they can participate in the process and demand sanity.

• Break the teachers’ unions

Teachers’ unions have become a major hindrance to decent education in this country. They prevent the firing of bad instructors, impose political orthodoxy on curricula, and in general resist any reforms which threaten their own power.

Furthermore, the teachers’ unions have been the driving force behind the Gramscian control of education (as discussed in Part IV of this essay), and are one of the reasons schools are politically biased in the first place.

I have no idea how to diminish the power of unions, so for now we’ll have to file this one under “wishful thinking.”

• Bring back competition and individuality

The de-emphasis on competition and push toward “group assignments” (discussed earlier) have numbed American schools. With no winners and no losers, and little reward for individually being the “best” in the class, students slog through a grey educational landscape with no motivation to excel.

Bring back competition. With a vengeance. Glorify individual achievement. This is what makes school exciting and helps push every student to try harder.

 


 

Got your own ideas? The world wants to know! The national conversation about education is hereby declared OPEN.

 


 

Part I: Ideological War Spells Doom for America’s Schoolkids
Part II: What’s the Matter with Texas?
Part III: Indoctrination Nation
Part IV: In Pursuit of Cultural Hegemony
Part V: Proposals for an Educational Renaissance

In Pursuit of Cultural Hegemony

September 2nd, 2010 - 3:35 pm

[This is Part IV of a five-part essay; if you haven't yet seen them, first read Part I, Part II, and Part III.]

While educators may be unconsciously relying on dubious theories of psychological modeling (as mentioned in yesterday’s essay) to justify the unrelenting ethnic tokenism in our nation’s schoolbooks, their official explanation revolves around the supposed need to boost students’ “self-esteem.” Those kids who do poorly in school, the theory goes, fail only because they have low self-esteem, leading to low expectations. Therefore, the best way to boost performance for struggling students is not to make their curriculum more challenging or to tailor it to their needs, but rather to use the curriculum as a mechanism to improve students’ self-image. If kids love themselves, the educational theorists claim, they’ll want to succeed, and if they want to succeed, they will succeed. Problem solved!

And so the entire educational system has systematically been re-tooled to focus on self-esteem building. In early grades this involves unsubtle classroom activities — assignments, songs, everybody-wins “contests” — directly informing each student how wonderful they are. In later grades, however, kids begin to grow more sophisticated and skeptical of such heavy-handed methods, so the curriculum designers “cleverly” embed self-esteem building hidden messages into the reading material where it can work on each student’s subconscious. Usually this involves praising and glamorizing “heroes” who just happen to share some ethnic/cultural/gender/appearance attribute with kids in the class, the assumption being that the students’ minds will internalize the message, “If this hero who looks just like me can succeed, then so can I!”

Needless to say, this is the biggest crock of baloney ever foisted on the American public. True self-esteem is not a precursor to achievement and success, it comes as the natural consequence of achievement and success. It’s something you earn, not something you’re given. And to the extent that one can artificially induce baseless self-esteem in someone who has not done anything noteworthy to earn it, one has only succeeded in creating a child with a personality disorder whose swollen ego and sense of entitlement will only later serve as a hindrance in adult real-world interactions.

All of that is brushed aside by the now-prevailing self-esteem mantra. And since statistics show that in most school districts there is a higher percentage of minority students struggling academically, the liberal curriculum designers invariably populate textbooks with inspirational minority heroes, thinking this will provide enough of a self-esteem boost to “eliminate the achievement gap.”

The end result of this self-esteem paradigm (or at least the leftist implementation of it) is a complete abandonment of any pretense of historical accuracy, as the following example illustrates.

Carver and Maxwell: a Tale of Two Scientists

Like most students in post-WWII America, throughout my schooling I was taught repeated lessons about George Washington Carver, a famed African-American agricultural scientist. My teachers always remained a little vague about what exactly his scientific achievements were, but we learned in no uncertain terms that Carver was a Great Scientist who must be respected and admired now and forever.

Years later, while taking a History of Science course in graduate school, I learned about a 19th-century Scottish physicist named James Clerk Maxwell. Prior to taking that class, I had never heard of the guy.

Now, older and wiser, looking at all this in retrospect, something uneasy dawns on me. Waaaaiiiiit a minute. What was that all about? Why was I (and just about every other kid in America) endlessly instructed on the glories of Carver, but never even apprised of Maxwell’s existence? Therein lies an instructional tale.

George Washington Carver

George Washington Carver, while perhaps being a good person, an altruistic person, and one of the first African-Americans to receive notoriety for his intellectual pursuits, was in fact not a “great scientist” nor one who made any significant scientific breakthroughs.

Just as with Roy Benavidez (the military hero mentioned in Part III of this essay), it’s not that I seek to criticize Carver. Did George Washington Carver raise himself up by his own bootstraps and intellect during an era of harsh segregation to become a respected professor and researcher? Yes. Did he strive to help his fellow man? Yes. Was he among the first black men to achieve national fame? Yes. So: Should George Washington Carver be included in textbooks? Certainly. But…not to the exclusion of more important scientists. And his importance should not be vastly over-emphasized (as it currently is).

The problem with textbooks is that they have limited space in which to convey an infinitude of knowledge. So, for example with the history of science, there should be a triage system whereby the most important scientists are the first to be assured inclusion in textbooks, followed by the slightly less important scientists, and so on. But if a personage of comparatively minor importance gets elevated to a higher position in the prioritization, that necessarily means some other scientist, whose contributions on an objective basis were more significant, must get excluded.

So, if students only have time to learn about the contributions of just one scientist, you should probably start (for example) with Isaac Newton. If the book has space for just two, then also include Albert Einstein. If three or four, you toss in James Clerk Maxwell and Galileo. And so on down the line. This is important on a meritocratic basis, and also because the students are not just learning about these scientists’ personal stories, but are in addition (hopefully) learning the fundamentals of science in the process.

Now, there have been many great scientists over the millennia. Hundreds and hundreds to choose from, in many different fields. And they are all (including George Washington Carver) worthy of admiration. Science is a noble pursuit. But, using purely objective criteria measuring the significance of what each scientist achieved or discovered, one would have to go through a thousand individuals of overwhelming historical importance before one came to George Washington Carver. He may have been a somewhat significant personage of social-historical note (i.e. as one of the first African-Americans of national stature), and he may have had good intentions, but he was not an important scientist. I fully realize that in this modern political environment it is simply not cool to point this out, but it’s an essential component of the debate which remains unspoken.

George Washington Carver’s reputation as a scientist is based on two things: advocating crop rotation, and developing alternate uses for the peanut. Let’s look at each in turn.

Carver encouraged crop rotation to replenish soils in the South after decades of cotton monoculture had depleted the land’s nutrients. Good idea, and an admirable economic suggestion — but it was not a scientific breakthrough, or even something particularly original. Many other people in Carver’s era had been recommending the same thing for quite some time. And crop rotation (as a way to replenish soils) had been standard practice in Europe, the Middle East, China, ancient Rome and even ancient Mesopotamia for thousands of years. So, while it may have been a wise policy, it was not a scientific achievement.

Carver also supposedly developed hundreds of uses for peanuts, sweet potatoes and soybeans. However, he never kept lab notes, so we have no idea what any of his formulas were. Furthermore, not a single one of his novel agricultural products turned out to be be useful:

After his death the Carver Museum, which he had helped create at Tuskegee, credited him with developing 287 peanut commodities. One hundred twenty-three were foods and beverages, 68 were paints or dyes, and the rest were livestock foods, cosmetics, medicinal preparations, and miscellaneous uncategorized items. The catalog was inflated by much near duplication: among the individual entries were bar candy, chocolate-coated peanuts, and peanut chocolate fudge; all-purpose cream, face cream, face lotion, and hand cream; thirty cloth dyes, nineteen leather dyes, and seventeen wood stains. Many items were clearly not original with Carver–even “salted peanuts” was on the list (though peanut butter was not). Nor could the efficacy of every preparation, such as a “face bleach and tan remover,” be taken for granted. Since Carver left no formulas for these products other than a single patented peanut cosmetic, later investigators were unable to evaluate or confirm his production of many of them.

Along with the peanut Carver championed the sweet potato, a nutritional complement also well suited to Southern soils. Man could live by the peanut and sweet potato alone, he asserted, for together they constituted a balanced ration. Again he publicized the crop’s potential in quantitative terms. “The sweet potato products number 107 up to date,” he told the congressional committee during his peanut presentation. “I have not finished working with them yet.”

Working almost entirely alone, Carver was uncommunicative about his laboratory procedures. A visiting chemist from nearby Auburn University found that he evaded all questions about how his products were made. G. Lake Imes recalled as “enigmatic” his replies to inquisitive visitors to his laboratory. Robert L. Vann, a black journalist, asked him if he had recorded the formulas for his many discoveries. “To my amazement,” Vann reported, “Dr. Carver looked at me and smiled and said, ‘I have all of these formulas, but I have not written them down yet.’”

What explanation of his scientific achievements Carver did offer was not calculated to satisfy other scientists. Speaking in 1924 at the Marble Collegiate Church in New York, he declared that he never used books in his work and depended on divine revelation for his product ideas and methods. In later addresses he often repeated his laboratory conversations with “Mr. Creator,” who told him what to do.

James Clerk Maxwell

Now, compare Carver’s “achievements” as a scientist with those of James Clerk Maxwell. For the purposes of this essay, I informally surveyed 20 friends and acquaintances; 19 out of the 20 had learned of George Washington Carver in school — but only 2 out of 20 had ever heard of James Clerk Maxwell. And yet, by most historical assessments, Maxwell was the third greatest scientist who ever lived, and the only one essentially on the same level as Newton and Einstein. Perhaps more than any single person, Maxwell paved the way for the modern world.

For the uninitiated: Maxwell revolutionized our understanding of the universe by discovering that electricity, magnetism and light were all manifestations of the same thing, the electromagnetic field; he was the first person to mathematically define the true nature of light itself; he overturned classical physics by finding a way to precisely describe matter (gas, in particular) using statistical models rather than individual measurements. Most of modern physics uses Maxwell as its launching pad; relativity and quantum mechanics are the direct descendants of his breakthroughs. Oh, and in his spare time, he invented color photography, among numerous other mind-boggling achievements.

Why mention Maxwell in this article? Because, despite his towering stature as one of the greatest and most influential geniuses who ever lived, he is rarely mentioned in any modern American K-12 textbooks, aside from a few Advanced Placement high school physics texts.

And yet George Washington Carver is nearly ubiquitous in schoolbooks for kids of all ages.

Now, if Carver was simply held up to students as an inspirational figure who overcame poverty and racism to achieve self-dignity, I’d have no quarrel with his ubiquity. But the problem is the endless insistence by the teachers and the books on Carver’s greatness as a scientist. Because if he was simply (but more accurately) portrayed as an underprivileged black man who rose through his own smarts and diligence to become a run-of-the-mill professor and nothing more, then the fable would not be so inspirational.

And so the story of Carver has been embroidered and exaggerated over the years, until he has become this towering untouchable genius of major historical significance. Or, as one of the innumerable online instructional materials about him puts it, “He was one of the finest scientists the world has ever known.”

Meanwhile, poor Maxwell, who really was “one of the finest scientists the world has ever known,” is totally ignored.

Why? Because education is no longer about facts. It’s about feelings. It’s about self-esteem building. It’s a group therapy session, a community-wide pep talk sprinkled with manufactured heroes and role models whose tales are carefully crafted to be uplifting, facts be damned. And since the dominant Left’s ruinous insistence on identity politics insures that our selfhood is primarily defined by our ethnicity, we end up believing that George Washington Carver really must have been a great scientist — not because of his actual discoveries, but because it serves a purpose to believe so.

The Rise of the Special Interest Groups

The battle over textbook bias and falsehoods is not limited strictly to the left-right cleavage. All sorts of special interest groups, with varying degrees of success, insist that their version of reality be included in textbooks — often at the expense of the truth. For example, an influx of strings-attached Saudi money led to textbooks which taught that Muslims discovered America before Columbus, based entirely on wishful thinking. Islamic religious indoctrination, masquerading as neutral lessons about the Middle East, have become commonplace in American schools over the last decade.

The list goes on: Environmentalists, Native Americans, feminists, Hispanics, gay activists, the disabled, and many more groups have joined the fray to ensure that American educational curriculum does not give them short shrift. The end result is that much of our classroom time is spent reciting the grievance litanies of every self-defined social subgroup in America.

Gramsci

This fracturing of education into a million useless little pieces is not a bug of the leftist agenda — it’s a feature. The goal is (and has been for years) to use the public schools to transform American culture, in order to make it ripe for a communist revolution.

That’s right: communist. No more pussyfooting around. To quote from part of a photo-essay I published two years ago,

That’s right, I said “commie.” The word usually elicits one of two reactions:

Mainstream average Americans — who have been duped into thinking that communism is a relic of the past which disappeared with the fall of the Soviet Union — feel that anyone still battling against imaginary Cold War enemies must be some sort of Dr. Strangelove-esque kook who worries about Precious Bodily Fluids and builds fallout shelters in the basement; OR…

Communists themselves — who thought it was safe to emerge from the shadows now that the world’s attention was drawn elsewhere after the fall of the Berlin Wall — react to the word with revulsion and fury, accusing anyone who says it of being a fascist McCarthyite intent on persecuting innocent Americans with hysterical witch hunts.

There’s one little detail, however, that tends to get overlooked: The communists are still here, and they’re just as dangerous as they ever were, and have not relinquished their goal of overthrowing the United States and bringing an end to the capitalist system. And the reason I’m aware of this fact perhaps more than the typical person is that I often attend anti-war rallies, which is where communists really come out of the woodwork.

And the other arena in which communist ideology never went away is academia, and in particular the educational world. The state sponsors of communism (i.e. The Soviet Union) have mostly ceased to exist, but the ideology remains as strong as ever.

Perhaps the most accurate word to describe the leftist takeover of education is Gramscianism, yet since so few people are familiar with the term, “communism” drives the point home more forcefully. But most Americans would be well-served to learn a bit about Antonio Gramsci, the Italian communist philosopher whose ideas have grown to be as influential as those of Karl Marx himself.

Illustration by Buzzsawmonkey

Wikipedia actually has a fairly honest encapsulation of Gramsci’s thesis, which I’ll quote here to avoid accusations that I chose a biased source:

Hegemony

Hegemony was a concept previously used by Marxists such as Vladimir Ilyich Lenin to indicate the political leadership of the working-class in a democratic revolution, but developed by Gramsci into an acute analysis to explain why the ‘inevitable’ socialist revolution predicted by orthodox Marxism had not occurred by the early 20th century. Capitalism, it seemed, was even more entrenched than ever. Capitalism, Gramsci suggested, maintained control not just through violence and political and economic coercion, but also ideologically, through a hegemonic culture in which the values of the bourgeoisie became the ‘common sense’ values of all. Thus a consensus culture developed in which people in the working-class identified their own good with the good of the bourgeoisie, and helped to maintain the status quo rather than revolting.

The working class needed to develop a culture of its own, which would overthrow the notion that bourgeois values represented ‘natural’ or ‘normal’ values for society, and would attract the oppressed and intellectual classes to the cause of the proletariat. Lenin held that culture was ‘ancillary’ to political objectives but for Gramsci it was fundamental to the attainment of power that cultural hegemony be achieved first. …

Intellectuals and education

… [Gramsci] claimed that modern intellectuals were not simply talkers, but directors and organisers who helped build society and produce hegemony by means of ideological apparatuses such as education and the media. Furthermore, he distinguished between a ‘traditional’ intelligentsia which sees itself (wrongly) as a class apart from society, and the thinking groups which every class produces from its own ranks ‘organically’. Such ‘organic’ intellectuals do not simply describe social life in accordance with scientific rules, but rather articulate, through the language of culture, the feelings and experiences which the masses could not express for themselves. The need to create a working-class culture relates to Gramsci’s call for a kind of education that could develop working-class intellectuals, who would not simply introduce Marxist ideology from without the proletariat, but rather renovate and make critical of the status quo the already existing intellectual activity of the masses. His ideas about an education system for this purpose correspond with the notion of critical pedagogy and popular education as theorized and practised in later decades by Paulo Freire in Brazil, and have much in common with the thought of Frantz Fanon. For this reason, partisans of adult and popular education consider Gramsci an important voice to this day.

Translated into practical terms and updated from its early-20th-century Italian cultural setting, Gramsci’s thesis is understood by the modern left to mean:

Socialist revolution will never happen in a nation if its culture continually reaffirms and enshrines middle-class capitalist values. Thus, in order to pave the way for the arrival of a communist state, radicals must first insinuate themselves into and/or influence the media and educational system, and from these positions of influence change public attitudes about the status quo. To achieve political hegemony, you must first achieve cultural hegemony.

This was a significant change from Marx’s and Lenin’s original ideas about communist revolution, which basically involved simply seizing power, public opinion be damned, and afterward propagandizing the masses to accept the new order. Gramsci realized that Marx had it reversed, and that the propaganda and indoctrination must happen first, in order to make the populace open to the idea of revolution; otherwise, rendered complacent by middle-class values and comforts, the populace would never consent to the upheaval of a revolution.

The media and public schools were correctly identified by Gramsci as the most influential cultural institutions, and it was therefore those that the left realized must be targeted.

It is this sophisticated Gramscian plan, and not the more brutish Marxist idea of simply seizing power by force, which has guided leftist thought in America since WWII. And it is why the media and education have, over time, been slowly turned into engines of leftist propaganda. Gramscianism matured into “critical pedagogy” which is the real-world application of his educational theories, and countless left-leaning young adults have for decades been nudged toward careers in education and the media. Some time ago, we crossed a threshold in which the Gramscian infiltrators no longer had to ply their trade surreptitiously, but became the majority in the media and in education, and after that point the process accelerated rapidly as they took over both fields and turned them into ideological weapons.

(As an aside: Note also that Wikipedia correctly identifies Frantz Fanon as a Gramscian thinker. “At night, in the dorms, we discussed neocolonialism, Franz Fanon, Eurocentrism, and patriarchy.” — Barack Obama, in Dreams of My Father.)

This explains the otherwise mystifying insistence by leftist educators on ignoring facts in favor of “politically correct” ideas and frameworks. I have little doubt that the majority of teachers and educators don’t even know they’re part of a Gramscian project but still plow ahead with their ideologically driven careers anyway, unaware that they are myrmidons paving the way for revolution.


Don’t miss the final installment, with a way out of this mess:
Part V: Proposals for an Educational Renaissance

 


 

Part I: Ideological War Spells Doom for America’s Schoolkids
Part II: What’s the Matter with Texas?
Part III: Indoctrination Nation
Part IV: In Pursuit of Cultural Hegemony
Part V: Proposals for an Educational Renaissance

Indoctrination Nation

September 1st, 2010 - 12:30 pm

[This is Part III of a five-part essay; if you haven't yet seen them, first read Part I and Part II.]

While the media generally goes into hysterics every time the Texas State Board of Education meets, with commentators hurling mockery, outrage and vitriol at the board members, there is a total lack of interest when other states’ boards of education meet for the same purpose. Yet Texas is not the only state that influences the content of American schooling: a few other states also determine textbook standards that end up being used in other parts of the country. California, in particular, is also an important textbook market for publishers. Yet mysteriously, one never hears of any controversy erupting when the California State Board of Education meets to decide the content of textbooks used throughout the state and in many other school districts around the country which shun the Texas-approved textbooks.

Why is that? Could it simply be that California-approved textbooks aren’t as politicized as those in Texas?

Quite the contrary. If anything, the textbooks approved by the California State Board of Education are even more politicized than Texas textbooks, and more ideologically biased. So: Why does the media ignore what happens in California textbooks? Because the state’s bias goes the other way. California-approved social studies textbooks are politically correct in the extreme, with multiculturalism and “social justice” as the defining characteristics. The pressure groups and board members setting policy for California’s (and hence a substantial portion of America’s) textbooks exceed their Texan counterparts in their extremism, but since California pushes the “correct” kind of extremism, you never hear about it.

And I’m not just talking about overt political bias, as exemplified by the previously-mentioned A People’s History of the United States and countless similar study materials with a blatant left-leaning slant. I’m talking about a subtler form of indoctrination.

As pointed out in this article written by a textbook editor,

To make the list in California, books must be scrupulously stereotype free: No textbook can show African Americans playing sports, Asians using computers, or women taking care of children. Anyone who stays in textbook publishing long enough develops radar for what will and won’t get past the blanding process of both the conservative and liberal watchdogs.

More on this in a moment.

But first let’s look at another example cited in this essay by The American Textbook Council, illuminating what has happened to California’s (and the nation’s) curriculum in recent decades. If you’re young enough to have experienced this kind of schooling yourself, the example below will not be a surprise to you; but if you’re over a certain age, and haven’t been paying attention to changes in American education, you’ll scratch your head at some of the names in this textbook’s list of America’s greatest heroes:

Editors [at Houghton Mifflin] were put in the hands of revisionist historians, Islamist activists, and diversity counters. … Its eighth-grade history, Creating America, produced by Houghton Mifflin’s McDougal Littell imprint, … identifies ten representative American heroes:

Abigail Adams
Crispus Attucks
Andrew Jackson
Queen Liluokalanai
Abraham Lincoln
Juan Seguin
Elizabeth Cady Stanton
George Washington
Ida B. Wells
Zitkala-Sa

In fact this list is highly unrepresentative of American history. This “American history” cobbled together from “representative” national heroes conforms to multicultural ideology, but it fails. The continuing effort to make diversity along lines of gender and ethnicity into the essence of the national past comes up short and cheapens the narrative.

In this popular textbook, to counteract the unfortunately necessary inclusion of the three Dead White Male presidents on the list (Washington, Lincoln and Jackson), the publishers selected an array of second-tier historical figures whose ethnic diversity is beyond reproach — and also ensured that the genders were represented equally as well. And while I have no problem with students learning about Queen Liluokalanai and the rest of the crew, in context, I fear that America’s children are coming away with the impression that these really are the most important people in our nation’s history, and not just a list assembled at random to satisfy multicultural pressure groups.

The teachers and educators seem to have forgotten that kids don’t even know the basics yet, so that when you feed them an alternate set of facts which were only meant to counteract the longstanding un-PC status quo, the students in their innocence and ignorance learn only that alternate reality and never learn that status quo it was meant to neutralize.

The Travesty of Psychological Modeling

The entire drive for enforced equal ethnic and gender representation in history books is based on a false premise. Probably without even realizing it, politically motivated educators are borrowing unproven theories from psychology and applying them en masse to schoolkids. Relying on notions of “psychological modeling,” the unspoken assumption behind much of modern education is that children are incapable of forging their own personalities or paths through life, but are strictly limited to imitating the role models they perceive while growing up. Thus, according to the theory, a girl who grows up in the 1950s and sees no images or discussions of female firefighters will reach adulthood convinced of the impossibility of ever becoming a firefighter; furthermore, she will never attempt to or even want to become a firefighter, thinking it beyond her reach. And so in the next generation there will be no female firefighters either, thus once again no one on whom a young potential female firefighter might model her aspirations, and the cycle will repeat forever. Similarly, the theory goes, if a child grows up in a gang-infested neighborhood, and the only adults he ever sees are gang members, then when that child grows up he will almost certainly become a gang member too, because that’s all he knows: the gang members become his role models. And then he becomes the role model for the next generation. The principle extends across the social landscape: Kids who grow up being abused by their parents will themselves become abusers. Kids who grow up in a milieu filled with academics and intellectuals will themselves tend to become intellectuals too. And so on.

In an attempt to upend the status quo of this multi-tiered self-perpetuating class system, educators have sought to break the cycle of negative role modeling in minority communities by using the school system as a tool to present alternate positive role models for the children to emulate. Sounds almost reasonable on the surface. But there’s a terrible, terrible price to pay for this psychological self-help gimmick: In order to create a satisfactory array of positive archetypes, educators have begun to twist historical reality to suit their requirements, and engage in egregious revisionism to artificially construct the needed pantheon of role models to match every imaginable ethnic and social sub-grouping.

It is precisely for this reason that contemporary textbooks are filled with “heroes” and purportedly pivotal historical figures who are totally unknown to anyone over, say, 40 years old. That’s because if a particular field of endeavor or crucial moment in history was populated mostly by straight white males, the revisionist textbook framers seek out and focus on peripheral figures who fit the necessary ethnic profile — inevitably (considering the limited space in the textbook and a finite amount of class time) to the exclusion of authentically more significant individuals.

Illustration by Buzzsawmonkey

Forging a New Reality

Let’s now revisit the first example cited above, in which “No textbook can show African Americans playing sports, Asians using computers, or women taking care of children.” Let’s be completely frank here: Women tend to (and tend to want to) take care of children; African-Americans tend to dominate the types of professional sports popular in America (football, basketball, baseball, track-and-field, etc.) for whatever sociological or physiological reasons; and Asians often pursue academic, scientific, or business careers, which these days pretty much requires extensive computer expertise. In other words, by any measurable criteria, on average these stereotypes have a kernel of truth and are based on real-world facts: Women do tend to be the ones raising children, African-Americans do tend to participate in and excel at athletics, and some Asians do gravitate toward careers that involve the use of computers.

But if the stereotypes are at least partly true, and are not negative stereotypes, then what is the harm in having at least a few pictures in a textbook which depict reality accurately, to at least balance out all the other wishful-thinking pictures? After all, if you walk through the real American landscape, everywhere you go you’ll see with your own eyes mothers taking care of children; if you turn on the TV or look at a magazine or see a billboard or actually attend a sporting event, you will see African-Americans engaging in sports; and if you go to any major university, you’ll see Asians using computers. What’s so taboo about these social realities that they need to be covered up or denied?

Just when we thought we had gotten to the bottom of the story, we have to get out our shovels and keep digging. Since progressive educators believe the dodgy theory that if you depict a behavior to a young person, then he or she will grow up imitating that behavior, then the reason to not include in textbooks any images of women raising children or Asians using computers is that you don’t want women to raise children or Asians to use computers. The theory goes: over time, girls in the class, not perceiving any images of motherhood during their education, will upon reaching adulthood tend to reject motherhood as a life-course; and Asians, not seeing in their textbooks any role models pursuing academic careers, will grow up to seek out non-academic jobs. And so on.

But why would anyone want that? I reject that this “modeling” is even effective in the first place, but setting that issue aside for the moment: What is the motivation of the people (i.e. the progressive educational establishment) who seek to restructure through textbook manipulation the existing self-selected social landscape?

The answer is almost too obvious to grasp: They want a social revolution. Part of this drive is nihilistic: However things currently are, they want to negate these realities and tear them down, for the purported reason of “evening things out.” And part of it is what might be called the desire for “class vengeance”: to upend the existing social order and usher in a new one in which the roles are reversed. In the case of the California textbook authors, to create a society in which men raise children and women go off to work; in which African-Americans don’t play sports, but (presumably) pursue academic careers; and in which Asians reject intellectual achievement in favor of — well, I guess, sports.

This reversing or (in the best-case scenario) leveling out of class and socio-ethnic differences is a hallmark of Marxist theory. I’m not talking about the strict economic aspect of Marxism — I’m speaking of social Marxism, or postmodern Marxism. The difference between 19th century classical Marxism and 21st century neo-Marixsm is a vast topic far beyond the scope of this essay, and for which there is insufficient vocabulary to discuss without endless scuffles over the very definitions of terms. I’m speaking of the modern leftist belief that it is not only possible but necessary to eradicate social and economic differences in order to achieve a completely “fair” world. There are many proposed ways to achieve this, but the most subtle involve the indoctrination of youth so that they grow up embracing the “social justice” model. Critics of this Marx-inspired drive — myself included — point out that in the first place it’s not even truly possible to neutralize the natural stratification of society, and therefore that the process of attempting to “even things out” inevitably ends up (as it always has in the past) a bloody mess leading to a repressive result; but secondly and most importantly, even if a Marxist utopia ever was achieved, very quickly a new social stratification would emerge, and the “problem” — if you insist on perceiving it as a problem — of social/class differences would start all over again, leading to another bloody revolution and yet another repressive social order, ad infinitum.

One needs only to look at what happens in the aftermaths of real communist revolutions to see that class stratification resurfaces almost immediately after the Old Order is annihilated. The landlords are out, the cadres are in; aristocrats are supplanted by apparatchiks and elite party members. The privileged are demoted, but that doesn’t mean that the very notion of privilege is abandoned. Hell no: all that happens is that someone else gets to become the superior. Which is entirely predictable, because the natural variation among individuals and in environments will inevitably lead to stratification, no matter how hard you try to suppress it. The perfectly egalitarian communist utopia is an unattainable pipe dream, and any attempt to bring about this impossible society will only lead to pointless misery for a majority of the population.

What Happens in California Doesn’t Stay in California

Well, you may be thinking, at least Texas is immune from this craziness. Thank God for Texas!

Uh … I hate to be the one to break it to you, but…

Even Texas is not safe from the multicultural mania. Remember that the Texas State Board of Education is not a solid conservative bloc. The board actually reflects pretty accurately the political makeup of the state’s population: currently, the 15-member board is composed of 5 liberal Democrats, 7 or 8 conservative Republicans, and 2 or 3 more moderate Republicans (depending on where you draw the line between moderate and conservative). And while the board may vote along strictly partisan lines on some hot-button issues, there is also plenty of jockeying and compromise on issues that don’t draw as much media attention. On occasion, the liberal members get their way, or at least influence the outcome of a particular vote toward a compromise position.

At one meeting last March, the TSBE descended into chaos and name-calling over demands by liberals on the board for greater ethnic representation (i.e. tokenism) in history textbooks. Two specific disputes cropped up in the news reports: one, the insistence by the outvoted liberal board members that students be taught the names of the eight Texans of Hispanic heritage who fought at the Alamo; and two, that ethnic minority Medal of Honor winners be highlighted as heroes. After one of the liberal members threw a tantrum and stomped out, the rest of the board apparently compromised and partly caved in to demands for more minority Medal of Honor winners. Out of curiosity, I wanted to learn exactly who made the cut and why, but after an extensive search I found only two papers in the whole country that reported the specific names which the School Board members were arguing about:

For hours, the State Board of Education’s Hispanic and African American members clashed with its Anglo majority Thursday over how to present history to the state’s 4.7 million public school children.

Much of the conflict centered on the racial balance of the historical figures to be included in textbooks starting in the 2011-2012 school year. Temperatures boiled when sex or religion got added to the mix.

Members grew increasingly distraught over the process as they groped toward a preliminary adoption of new socials studies curriculum standards, set for today.

And one, Mary Helen Berlanga, D-Corpus Christi, walked out shortly after 5 p.m. as the board added two more white men to a standard identifying the contributions of Texas leaders, Lawrence “Sul” Ross and John Nance Garner.

“We can just pretend that this is White America. Hispanics don’t exist,” she said, as she left.

Race and discrimination provoked sharp debate. Berlanga attached copies of old signs on her desk: “This park was given for White people only. Mexicans and Negroes stay out,” read one. But she failed to get any Republican support for her amendment identifying minority Medal of Honor recipients.

Bradley said he wanted kids to learn about Medal of Honor recipients but questioned Berlanga’s criteria, saying, “We are doing it by skin color, and I object to that.”

After she left, the board voted to have students to discuss Medal of Honor recipients of all races and gender, such as Vernon J. Baker, Alvin York and Roy Benavidez – respectively, an African American hero from World War II, an Anglo who fought in World War I, and a Hispanic hero from the Vietnam War.

Rick Agosto, D-San Antonio, said he felt frustrated because Hispanic children are entitled to more examples of contributions by Hispanics.

When I first scanned this passage, I mis-read it to mean that the left-leaning board members wanted inclusion of these three Medal of Honor winners, but the notion of inclusion based solely on race was rejected by the Republicans. But no — after one of the Democrats stomped out, the board apparently compromised by approving the inclusion of three men, one each from a different race. (If that was the compromise, one can only imagine what the original demands were.) Let’s pause for a moment and look at this compromise.

Obsessing Over the Minutiae and Ignoring the Big Picture

Just who was Roy Benavidez? He won the Medal of Honor for an heroic action during a May 2, 1968 battle in the Vietnam War.

Now, I’m not going to put down or criticize Benavidez; what he did (rushing to help trapped comrades under fire) was extremely brave and selfless, and I salute him for his service to the country. He certainly deserved the Medal of Honor.

But…well, let’s be frank: In the grand scheme of things, the sweep of world history, just how significant was that skirmish and Benavidez’s role in it? Not very. Don’t forget that there were 245 other brave soldiers who also won the Medal of Honor during Vietnam — and 3,447 other Medal of Honor winners throughout American history. If you were to read the each one of their stories, they’d be equally valorous. So: Why Benavidez? He would seem at first glance to be some random heroic veteran pulled out of a hat and held up above all others — and not just above all other heroic veterans, but all other people in the history of the world — for praise and study. Why? The people who voted to include him in the book told us exactly why: Because of his ethnicity. That’s it.

And the same holds true for the other two nominees: Vernon J. Baker “is a United States Army Medal of Honor recipient for his actions on April 5–6, 1945 near Viareggio, Italy during World War II. Baker and his platoon killed 26 enemy soldiers and destroyed six machine gun nests, two observer posts and four dugouts.” Again, very excellent. I salute Vernon Baker. But again, why him out of the literally millions of heroic soldiers who risked life and limb and mowed down the enemy in WWII and other wars? Again, he was chosen due to his ethnicity, and no other reason. The other nominee, legendary WWI hero Alvin York (subject of the Gary Cooper film Sergeant York) was probably ignored by the multiculturalists until they discovered that his ancestors had some Native American blood way back somewhere in the family tree — thereby elevating York to the coveted minority status.

Crispus Attucks, the Original Founding Father

Another example of this trend happened in my own education — an experience I would later learn was commonplace for other kids of the same generation. As a schoolchild growing up in an urban and very ethnically mixed school district sometime in that transitional period between 1975 and 2000, we thousands of elementary schoolkids were presented with what at the time was a novel concept — history viewed through the lens of race. And so our brief section on the American Revolution pretty much focused entirely on Crispus Attucks, one of the five people killed at the 1770 Boston Massacre, which is generally cited as one of the sparks that eventually ignited the American War of Independence. Oh, and I left out a key detail: Attucks was partly African-American. That’s why we studied him. Now, it’s all well and good to learn about Crispus Attucks and the Boston Massacre, as long as it’s one component in a larger megadose of information about the Revolution. But here’s the crazy part of my education: We never learned the rest the story. We never were given the slightest whiff of the “standard narrative” which this counter-narrative was devised to neutralize. I never was taught thing one about George Washington or Benjamin Franklin; Thomas Jefferson was only mentioned briefly as an example of a slave-owner; I never even heard the names Alexander Hamilton or Thomas Paine or any of the innumerable other figures familiar to anyone who learned American history “in the old days.”

On pages 84-90 of his book History in the Making (which traces how textbooks have changed over time), author Kyle Ward shows how the fable of Crispus Attucks has evolved and grown for centuries, and by now bears little resemblance to the original version of his participation in the Boston Massacre. Future president John Adams, at that time defending the British soldiers from a murder charge, described Attucks and his fellow rioters as “a motley rabble of saucy boys, negros and molattoes, Irish teagues and outlandish jack tarrs.” Compare that to the version I was taught nearly two hundred years later, in which Attucks was the original American patriot, a noble-minded martyr who almost singlehandedly brought America to independence.

Keep in mind that my teachers, however progressive they may have been, had themselves all been educated in the distant past of the 20th century, when every schoolchild had the “normal” version of American history drilled into his or her head relentlessly. And so these teachers (and school district policy-setters, I’m sure as well) wanted to break out of that old-fashioned mold and teach something more relevant to the majority of us inner-city kids. But in the rush to correct what was perceived as a longstanding bias, the educators must have forgotten that in our little pre-teen brains was a complete absence of any knowledge of American history of any kind. So that when we were exclusively presented with what was simply meant as an antidote to the old ways, that antidote was all we ever got. Crispus Attucks was just one of innumerable semi-marginal figures elevated to central status in my early educational career. If you had asked me, when I was still young, who had founded the United States, I likely would have told you it was Crispus Attucks. And I fear that if the future kids of Texas were to be quizzed on who won the Vietnam War, they’d probably tell you it was Roy Benavidez.

Multiply this scenario a million-fold and you can begin to see the problem with the kind of ethnocentric historical re-prioritization that has become commonplace in American education. It’s not that Crispus Attucks and Vernon J. Baker and Roy Benavidez were bad people, or are unworthy of praise, but rather that they are figures of at best secondary importance being given leading roles in history. It’s a nonstop educational equivalent of Rosencrantz and Guildenstern Are Dead, Tom Stoppard’s bizarre re-working of Hamlet in which bit players become the lead characters while Hamlet himself is relegated to the sidelines.

The Moral Imperative to Rewrite History

But this brings us back to the original “problem,” as the progressive educators perceive it. If we hew to the Straight White Male version of history, then we still won’t have any alternate role models to help minority students visualize a way out of their cultural rut. We need to misrepresent history in the past if we want to forge the possibility of a new history in the future.

To me, this is the gist of the conflict. I’ve striven mightily for years to fairly assess both sides of the debate, yet no matter how hard I try to be even-handed, the progressive/revisionist argument always collapses.

First of all, it is deeply insulting and condescending to presume that minority kids can only rise to the level of some precursor with a similar skin tone. This is the kind of “soft racism” of which the Left is endlessly guilty, treating minorities as if they were parrots capable only of imitative behavior.

If anything, the very existence of President Obama himself has disproven this presumption: What ethnic role models did Barack Hussein Obama have in his ascent to the presidency? None. Love him or hate him, disagree with his policies as vehemently as you wish (quite vehemently in my case), you must concede that he broke new ground; he showed that black men are capable of anything, and that they don’t require ethnic role models or antecedents to take any career path, even the highest one in the land. And if that’s the case, we don’t need to rewrite history as part of an unnecessary and ultimately futile mass psychology experiment.

Furthermore, reality doesn’t change simply because you’ve tricked a bunch of kids into believing a lie. Do the leftists seriously think that with sufficient brainwashing most young women will in fact permanently lose all biologically built-in mothering instincts and instead all strive to be firefighters or astronauts? That the facts of history will somehow alter to our liking if we twist them hard enough? (The answer, incredibly enough, is yes — that’s exactly what they believe.)

How much hogwash must we impose on our children before we abandon this delusional “social justice” scheme?

Next: Part IV: In Pursuit of Cultural Hegemony

 


 

Part I: Ideological War Spells Doom for America’s Schoolkids
Part II: What’s the Matter with Texas?
Part III: Indoctrination Nation
Part IV: In Pursuit of Cultural Hegemony
Part V: Proposals for an Educational Renaissance