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Monthly Archives: April 2012

On Saturday, a coalition of women’s rights, feminist, labor, progressive, and pro-choice groups organized marches in over 50 cities nationwide to protest in favor of President Obama’s health care agenda and against any restriction on abortion rights.

Photojournalist Ringo of Ringo’s Pictures attended the Los Angeles rally and has now posted a report about what happened.

[NOTE: As of 9:00am on May 2, this report has now been UPDATED with new photos, videos, text and links. If you only saw the original "preview" version earlier, keep reading.]

You can view Ringo’s full report here:

Women March Against the Phony “War on Women” – Los Angeles, CA 4/28/2012

This PJM post is merely an excerpt of Ringo’s report, to draw attention to it; click the link above to see plenty more photos.

By adapting the phrase “War on Women,” the protesters are unabashedly aligning themselves with the Democratic Party and the Obama 2012 presidential campaign, both of which are pushing this exact term as a campaign issue this year, claiming that the GOP is waging “a war on women.”

Here’s Ringo’s summary of the impetus behind the march:

We all know the story – When the Catholic Church objected to a provision in President Obama’s 2000 page “Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act”, that requires Catholic hospitals and schools to provide both contraceptives and so called “Day After” pills as part of their employee healthcare packages, Democrats pulled the old bait and switch, accusing Republicans of engaging in a “War on Women” for supporting the Church’s objections. A 30 year old Democrat activist named Sandra Fluke, posing as a doe-eyed college student, was brought in to speak before a group of House Democrats as part of the “Conscience Clause Committee”. She explained how the Catholic University she attended did not provide her with free contraceptives and so she was forced to spend over $1000.00 per year of her own money to pay for birth control. Conservative radio host Rush Limbaugh, finding Flukes claim of spending $1000.00 per year on contraception to be a bit of an exaggeration, made a series of tasteless jokes about how much sex would be required in order to spend more than $1000.00 on birth control in a mere 365 days….

A rational person might think that the real issue is whether the Federal Government has the right to force a religious organization to provide (or subsidize) services that are in direct opposition to their long held religious values, but Democrats (and the Left in general) are not concerned with reason (or the U.S. Constitution), and they quickly pounced upon Limbaugh’s comments as an opportunity to create a distraction from the true issue at hand.

So on Saturday, April 28th, women (and some men) gathered in various cities around the country to protest against the completely fabricated, entirely phony, non-existent “Republican War on Women”.

I paid a visit to the rally at Pershing Square in the middle of Downtown, Los Angeles.

For a few more specifics about the march, check out the organizers’ Facebook page and the site of a local NOW chapter.

[All photos in this essay are by Ringo of ringospictures.com.]

This short video of a speaker at the rally is a good illustration of exactly the worst argument you can make at a pro-abortion rally:

“When my mom found out she was pregnant with me, she really didn’t feel like she had any options, and uh…I mean, I’m glad I’m here to share this with you, but…for her, y’know, at the time, there wasn’t Planned Parenthood, she didn’t really know what to do…”

In psychology, they call this “cognitive dissonance.”

The march was not particularly large — Ringo estimates a few hundred. Here’s his video showing the entire protest column:

An observation from Ringo:

At one point after a speaker gratuitously used the words “penis” and “vagina” again and again, a young girl of perhaps 7 or 8 standing at the front of the stage put her hands over her ears and yelled out, “Hey, there are children here!” to which the woman on stage replied, “Some day you’ll find out what your vagina is for, and then you’ll thank me”. The crowd had a good laugh.

The obscenity wasn’t just on the signs. Here’s what one of the rally’s speakers sounded like (NSFW):

Want to see the full photo essay? Check out Ringo’s report.

Are you ready for the most ridiculous and pointless Occupation ever?

Last week, on Earth Day, the Occupy movement illegally took over an entire farm and transformed it into…a farm!

So proud are they of this revolutionary act that they showed off the farm to the media yesterday, so naturally I had to check it out.

The farm they seized was not a working farm per se, but rather a “research farm” for the University of California, near its Berkeley campus. The only difference between the way the farm used to be (prior to a week ago) and the way it is now is that the Occupiers have transformed what was essentially a well-maintained and important open-air laboratory into a disheveled and ultimately purposeless pretend-farm for trustafarian dropouts.

The struggle over the farm is not just a struggle over land; it is a Battle of Narratives. The “Occupy the Farm” group (loosely affiliated with Occupy Cal and Occupy Oakland, but a new separate group) has already put up a slick web site called “Take Back the Tract” which explains the “philosophy” justifying their behavior:

We are reclaiming this land to grow healthy food to meet the needs of local communities. We envision a future of food sovereignty, in which our East Bay communities make use of available land – occupying it where necessary – for sustainable agriculture to meet local needs.

…followed by a raft of conspiracy theories involving Whole Foods and senior centers and baseball fields.

The university, on the other hand, has fired back with a devastating press release of its own, dismantling Occupy’s ludicrous theories and moral gymnastics:

• The agricultural fields on the Gill Tract that are now being occupied are not the site of a proposed assisted living center for senior citizens and a grocery store. The proposed development parcel is to the south, straddling the intersection of Monroe Street and San Pablo Avenue, and has not been farmed since WWII.

• The existing agricultural fields on the Gill Tract are currently, and for the foreseeable future, being used as an open-air laboratory by the students and faculty of our College of Natural Resources for agricultural research. Their work encompasses basic plant biology, alternative cropping systems, plant-insect interactions and tree pests and pathogens. These endeavors are part of the larger quest to provide a hungry planet with more abundant food, and will be impeded if the protest continues. And, they are categorically not growing genetically modified crops. We have an obligation to support their education and research, and an obligation to the American taxpayers who are funding these federally funded projects.

• The university has been actively participating in a collaborative, five-year long community engagement process about our proposed development project with hundreds of hours of meetings, hearings and dialogue. We have a great deal of respect for all those who have been involved and regret that “Occupy the Farm” appears to have little regard for the process or the people who have participated in it.

We take issue with the protesters’ approach to property rights. By their logic they should be able to seize what they want if, in their minds, they have a better idea of how to use it.

To clarify matters for those not familiar with the area:

The University of California has its main campus in the center of Berkeley, but that’s not the only property it owns. Scattered around the East Bay, the university also owns several other large tracts of land, used for housing, office buildings, research facilities, storage, and so forth. One of these properties, known colloquially as “Albany Village” because it’s in the adjacent small town of Albany, is home to a housing complex for students who are married (and/or who have children) which is called “University Village”; and nearby on the same property is an experimental farm technically known as the “Agricultural Research Fields” but more commonly referred to simply as “the Gill Tract,” named after the Gill family which farmed the land originally.

The Gill Tract, about the size of a city block, is used by researchers and graduate students in UC’s College of Natural Resources to study biology, crop yields, plant diseases and genetics — often with an eye toward ecologically friendly, sustainable and organic practices.

Here’s one of the few articles in the mainstream media about Occupy the Farm, giving the basic facts and also pointing out that the biological researchers need access to the land immediately for their experiments because of the spring planting season.

The scientists themselves are for the most part royally pissed off at the Occupiers and some may have years of work ruined by the Occupiers’ juvenile prank.

Now that you know the whole story, let’s look around the Gill Tract today, shall we?


COMPOST CAPITALISM! In this context, is “Compost” a verb, or an adjectival noun? Are we supposed to compost capitalism, i.e. throw it on the compost heap; or is Occupy engaging in the practice of compost capitalism, a form of free trade based on the compost standard? Only your Marxist knows for sure.


Working in the hot sun. The thrill of breaking into gated property and “liberating” land is exciting; the tedium of then spending endless hours over the next year in the blistering heat, in order to legitimize your actions and prove you’re not just jacking everyone around — not so fun.

Prediction: Very few, if any, of these “crops” will ever be harvested, or even grow to maturity.


Before the Occupation, the Gill Tract was an agricultural research farm where twenty-somethings getting their PhDs would work the fields to grow crops, as they researched biology or how to raise better, healthier plants. But now, after this incredible revolution by Occupy, the Gill Tract has been utterly transformed into a farm where twenty-somethings work the fields to grow crops. The only difference is that before, the farm served a scientific function to improve society, and was managed by experts and hard-working students doing meaningful research; but now, it’s run by a bunch of smug amateurs and dropouts who plant store-bought seedlings in the middle of what once was a controlled research environment. Meet the new farm — same as the old farm, except worse.


Just as in collective farms in Russia and China, the first order of business at the occupied farm was to set up an open-air lecture space so the “workers” (necessarily with sarcastic quote marks in this case) can receive their daily political instruction.


Only a handful of rows, right near the entrance, were planted all along their length, from end to end. Soon enough, those rows gave way to other rows with just a few plants near the walkway, seemingly just for show, while the rest of the row went unused.


Many rows’ plantings were pretty pitiful, or perhaps just symbolic; in this case, for instance, a single full-grown leek was stuck in the ground at the start of one row, to simulate the concept of “farming leeks.”


The vast majority of the tract had been Roto-tilled but still remained unplanted as of yesterday.


Elsewhere around the acreage here and there were various ill-considered haphazard zones of a few transplanted seedlings. The plant with the label near the center is a young citrus tree, bought at a nursery, and stuck in the soil at this essentially random spot. Since it takes citrus trees several years to mature enough to bear fruit, this sapling will be growing here for quite a long time before it becomes a producing tree. Had Occupy really thought out the location of this tree, for the long-term — or was it (as I suspect) just some dude who stuck it there without much (or any) foresight; and since he won’t be around three years from now to tend it, why should he care that it will likely interfere with other uses for that part of the tract?


Wait, what — “our” lot? Suddenly you’re in favor of private property and ownership, now that you’ve stolen it? How is that lot yours any more than it was the university’s before you took it?


Hypocrisy, thy name is Occupy. When society draws boundaries, builds fences, and makes rules, Occupy gets to violate them at will. But once they’ve seized control, Occupy immediately starts making new rules and new boundaries that everyone else is supposed to honor. Perhaps that’s the new Occupy motto: “Rules for thee, but not for me.”


Despite several signs in the area declaring that the Gill Tract Occupation was not a “tent city,” as detractors had worried, but was instead devoted entirely to farming, in reality a tent…well, let’s just call it a “tent eco-village” has sprung up in the fields. This is not a tent city! Who do you trust — me, or your lying eyes?


Some leftist U.C. professors are lecturing today at the farm to show their solidarity with the Occupiers (and to thoughtlessly reveal their antagonism against fellow faculty members whose research at the farm was interrupted/spoiled by the Occupation), including Laura Nader (Ralph Nader’s older sister, famous for helping to lead the field of anthropology toward self-critical Political Correctness); Gill Hart, a Gramscian anti-capitalist; and Paul Rabinow, a deconstructionist anthropologist. What do any of these professors know about farming, or plant biology? Nothing. But hey, they know about the significance of what it means to spout off a bunch of revolutionary socialist verbiage while absconding with stuff that isn’t yours. And that will make the Occupiers feel ever so snug in their smugness. Group hug!

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Scholars have for centuries been pursuing clues to “the historical Jesus” — evidence that the religious figure now known as Jesus Christ actually once existed as a real person. There have been hundreds, if not thousands, of popular books, documentaries, television programs, magazine articles, research papers, films and more on the search for the “real” Jesus. While this investigation into the ultimate origins of Christianity may have once long ago been controversial, it is by now quite commonplace and accepted as a standard part of religious studies, even when the researchers conclude (as they often do) that the evidence for the historicity of Jesus is skimpy at best.

But no similar investigations have ever been conducted on the historicity of Muhammad (a.k.a. Mohammed, depending on the Arabic transliteration). Why not?

Most people assume that no one bothers to investigate whether or not Muhammad was a real person for the same reason that no one bothers to investigate the reality of other religious founders such as Joseph Smith or Martin Luther or Anton LaVey — because the evidence for their existence is overwhelming, well-documented and unquestioned. Regardless of whether or not Muhammad’s teachings were moral or useful, everyone, even the most hardened infidels, of course accepts that he must have existed. Right?

Well, actually, no. At least not according to a surprising and eye-opening new book by Robert Spencer, the bestselling author of The Politically Incorrect Guide to Islam and many other books, and a well-known critic of the Islamic doctrine of jihad.

While it may be true that “absence of proof is not proof of absence,” Spencer in his new book Did Muhammad Exist? does quite a convincing job of showing that there is, indeed, a complete “absence of proof” when it comes to the historicity of Muhammad. Yes, admittedly, it’s nearly impossible to “prove a negative,” and Spencer concedes as much; but in the vacuum of evidence there is no reason from a skeptic’s perspective to accept as factually true the traditional stories about Muhammad. (As we will see, alternate theories about the origins of the Muhammad tales more closely match what little evidence we have.)

The Evidence

To tackle such a big subject, Spencer focuses on five potential sources of information about Muhammad:

1. Documents from the era (7th and 8th centuries) written by independent (i.e. non-Muslim) outside observers;
2. Documents from the era written or created by Arabs/Muslims themselves;
3. The Qur’an itself;
4. The Hadiths, Islamic commentaries and sayings collected in the 8th and 9th centuries; and
5. The first biography of Muhammad, written by Ibn Ishaq over a century after Muhammed’s lifetime, on which all subsequent biographies are based.

Over the course of 200 pages, each category is carefully examined for solid evidence of Muhammad’s historicity, and each category is found wanting.

Of particular interest to a skeptic like me is the first category, because it is the only one that counts as a truly independent source. I simply assume that Islam, like most religions, boasts sacred texts which are self-referential and self-confirming (turns out I was wrong, but more about that later).

So: What did non-Muslims have to say about Muhammad and Islam, during his lifetime, and for 60 years afterward?

Nothing.

They made no mention of Muhammad or Muslims or Islam at all, at least until around the start of the 8th century. In case you’re thinking that there’d be no reason for outsiders to mention the religion of some obscure far-off tribe, remember that starting with the date of Muhammad’s purported death in 632, Arabs galloped out of the desert and conquered or captured almost the entirety of the Near East, the Middle East and North Africa in just a few decades. They encountered many cultures and civilizations, but none of those conquered peoples seem even to have heard of Islam or Muhammad. As Spencer notes in Chapter 2,

The Arabian conquests are a historical fact; that the Arabian conquerors actually came out of Arabia inspired by the Qur’an and Muhammad is less certain.

There are many puzzling details which tend to cast doubt on the standard narrative of Islam’s early years — that is, Muhammad’s life, and the decades immediately after his death when Arabs conquered the Middle East under the banner of their new religion, Islam. For example, a record exists of what was essentially a religious debate between a Christian in Antioch and an Arab commander at the height of the Arab conquest of the region, but, as Spencer notes,

In it the author refers to the Arabians not as Muslims but as “Hagarians” (mhaggraye) — that is, the people of Hagar, Abraham’s concubine and the mother of Ishmael. The Arabic interlocutor denies the divinity of Christ, in accord with Islamic teaching, but neither side makes any mention of the Qur’an, Islam, or Muhammad.

Imagine debating a “Christian” about religion, and he never mentions the Bible, Christianity, or Jesus. You might begin to doubt that he was a Christian at all.

And, jumping to the book’s conclusion, that’s exactly what Spencer posits: That the 7th century Arabs may have practiced a sort of nonspecific monotheism, loosely syncretized from pre-existing Judaic and Christian beliefs; but this new religion at first did not have a name, did not have a supposed “founder,” did not have a sacred text, and did not have rigid rituals. All of those were added much later, but fashioned in such as way as to retroactively assert their own 7th-century origins.

Surprising even for me was the book’s revelation that even among Arabic documents and artifacts, there is no mention of or example of any Qur’anic text until the year 691, a full 80 years after Muhammad supposedly started dictating it, and 60 years after it was completed and purportedly became the central text of Arab society. And even that 691 appearance — an inscription on the Dome of the Rock — may not have been a copy of Qur’anic text. From Spencer’s book:

This Qur’anic material is the earliest direct attestation to the existence of the book — sixty years after the Arab armies that had presumably been inspired by it began conquering neighboring lands. … Given the seamlessly mixed Qur’anic / non-Qur’anic nature of the inscription and the way the Qur’an passages are pulled together from all over the book, some scholars, including Christoph Luxenberg, have posited that whoever wrote this inscription was not quoting from a Qur’an that already existed. Rather, they suggest, most of this material was added to the Qur’an only later, as the book was compiled. … It may be that both the Dome of the Rock and the Qur’an incorporated material from earlier sources that contained similar material in different forms.”

As for the third potential source of contemporary information about Muhammad, the Qur’an itself, non-Muslims might be shocked to learn, as Spencer writes, that,

The name Muhammad actually appears in the Qur’an only four times, and in three of those instances it could be used as a title — the “praised one” or “chosen one” — rather than as a proper name. By contrast, Moses is mentioned by name 136 times, and Abraham, 79 times. Even Pharaoh is mentioned 74 times. Meanwhile, “messenger of Allah” (rasul Allah) appears in various forms 300 times, and “prophet” (nabi), 43 times. Are those all references to Muhammad, the seventh-century prophet of Arabia? Perhaps. Certainly they have been taken as such by readers of the Qur’an through the ages. But even if they are, they tell us little to nothing about the events and circumstances of his life.

Indeed, throughout the Qur’an there is essentially nothing about this messenger beyond insistent assertions of his status as an emissary of Allah and calls for the believers to obey him. Three of the four times that the name Muhammad is mentioned, nothing at all is disclosed about his life.

That is all as far as Qur’anic mentions of Muhammad by name go. In the many other references to the messenger of Allah, this messenger is not named, and little is said about his specific actions. As a result, we can glean nothing from these passages about Muhammad’s biography. Nor is it even certain, on the basis of the Qur’anic text alone, that these passages refer to Muhammad, or did so originally.”

Wait — there’s basically nothing about Muhammad in the Qur’an?

And even if there had been, that may not have proven anything anyway. Spencer goes to great lengths to dissect the early history of the Qur’an, recounting how even Islamic sources admit that it was not compiled until long after Muhammad’s death, often based on the memories of random people the compilers met by chance; and there are even competing versions of who compiled it and when, and what their political and military motivations were for including or excluding certain passages.

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If you thought that big political rally in San Francisco on Saturday must have have been a “Romney for President” event, then you are forgiven — because it sure looked that way.

But it actually was Tea Partiers from around the Bay Area who gathered on the Embarcadero for the biggest Tea Party of the 2012 election season so far. (That’s right — they’re ba-a-a-a-a-ack, demanding fiscal responsibility and smaller government, and not letting the mainstream media’s lies silence the debate.)

And although early in the campaign Mitt Romney was not at first the Tea Party favorite, they’re now rallying to his side, if Saturday’s event was any indication.


“Hear us shout! Vote Obama out!” was the rallying cry of the day. And that meant only one thing: Vote Romney like your life depended on it. The event’s official motto was “NObama 2012,” and after a bruising primary season, there’s only one NObama left to vote for: Romney.

True, there was a small contingent of Ron Paulians at the San Francisco rally, but they were overwhelmed by the nearly universal Romney support. I have no doubt that among the true hardcore conservatives in the crowd, that support was more pragmatic than ideological; but contrasted against free-spending big-government Obama, even a moderate conservative like Romney seems like a messiah by comparison. And just about everyone at the rally realized that.

Photo courtesy of Larry in SF

Romneysiacs plied the crowd with Romney stickers — and almost everyone took them up on the offer. By the end of the day, the place looked like a Romney rally.

The Tea Party is good at math, and there’s one very simple equation they’ve solved:

- America will go bankrupt unless spending is reined in and the size of government is reduced;
- Obama is charting the exact opposite financial course from what needs to happen;
- Romney is going to be the Republican nominee for president, whether or not he was everybody’s first choice;
QED, we must support Romney if we want to save the country.


Meghan McCain staffed the Romney table. (No, not really, but she sure was a lookalike.) The guy on the right was saying, “Romney is no milquetoast — he will crush all opposition with his mighty claws, like so!” Or something like that.

About 600 people showed up; one of them was “Larry in SF,” who has also posted a photo essay about the rally on his Fund47 blog, including hi-res crowd shots to verify the attendance numbers. Larry has kindly consented to the use of a few of his photos (as credited) in this report; if you like them, check out his full photo essay here.


Even the pooches planned to vote for Romney. And why not? No voter ID is required. Just walk into any polling place and bark, “Woof! My name is woof! Eric Holder woof! Give me my woof! ballot!” Affix a pawprint as a signature, and you’re good to go!

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Last weekend I visited the U.C. Berkeley campus and on a whim attended a lecture with the provocative title “Teaching as a Subversive Activity — Revisited.”


Because this was a presentation aimed at education insiders only, the lecturer, retired professor H. Douglas Brown from S.F. State, seemed perfectly willing to let the cat out of the bag about political indoctrination on college campuses. Fortunately, I had my trusty camera with me, so I was able not only to snap a few pictures but also record several key portions of his speech, which I found so eye-opening that I felt the general public deserved to hear it as well.

The timing couldn’t have been better: A devastating new report issued by the National Association of Scholars had just been issued a few days beforehand, which documented with exquisite and irrefutable detail the extreme liberal bias at the University of California. However, the main problem with the NAS report (which you can download in full here if you’re interested) is that it’s too overwhelming and too technical to deliver the kind of emotional impact needed to sway public opinion. To drive home the point in a more personal way, the NAS report needed an introductory companion anecdote of a professor frankly confessing the rationale behind what is essentially the “theory of indoctrination.” As if on cue, Professor Brown stepped into that role, unwitting though he may have been.

Let it be noted that Professor H. Douglas Brown is no wild-eyed extremist; in fact, he’s rather bland and respectable and not the most thrilling of speakers, as you will soon hear. But that’s what made his presentation so disturbing: radical and self-admittedly “subversive” attitudes that affect the future of society are discussed with matter-of-fact nonchalance. The main drawback of Professor Brown’s verbal style (at least from my point of view) is that he often resorts to the academics’ tried-and-true escape hatch, which is to rephrase statements as questions, so as to have plausible deniability if later confronted. Thus, for example, instead of just flatly saying something like “We should indoctrinate students with leftist ideologies,” he asks “Should we indoctrinate students with leftist ideologies?” and only after five minutes of talking in circles eventually concludes “Yes.”

The title of Brown’s lecture is taken from an influential and groundbreaking book published in 1969. Written by Neil Postman and Charles Weingartner, the manifesto Teaching as a Subversive Activity did not actually advocate political indoctrination in the classroom, but rather it was one of the first books to completely deconstruct the concept of education itself, and the “subversion” it advocated was much deeper and more structural: Get rid of tests, the notions of “the right answer” and “the wrong answer,” the memorization of facts, the ascendency of teachers, and so forth; instead, make education an ungraded process of learning how to think and how to criticize, respecting the opinions and ideas of the students themselves. Of course, this being 1969, it was presumed that the establishment status quo with its facts and rules was rigid and conservative, while the students were radical and transgressive, so all one had to do to foment a revolution was simply to put the kids in charge of their own education, and they’ll naturally overthrow society without even being specifically instructed to do so. (If you’re curious, the entire text of Teaching as a Subversive Activity is now available for free online as a PDF document.)

In the decades since, many of the recommendations in Teaching as a Subversive Activity and similar books were in fact implemented to various degrees, but things didn’t quite work out as the authors envisioned. Without some structure, students often flounder aimlessly. Furthermore, the “authority figures” controlling academia are no longer uptight conservatives, but are instead now liberals, progressives and radicals themselves, so when students are encouraged to ignore those in charge, then they may very well ignore the progressive messages as well.

Professor Brown’s talk focuses specifically on this problem: His basic thesis is that it is no longer sufficient to simply tell students to think for themselves, because then we lose the ability to influence them, and there’s no guarantee that the students will then develop progressive worldviews. The “Revisited” part of the lecture’s title means that these days, we must be more blunt and to the point: Since the good guys are now in charge, let’s just dispense with all the experimentation and instead directly indoctrinate the students in leftist thought and ideals.

Now, I’m sure Professor Brown, were he to ever read this essay, would take exception to my characterization of his lecture; but listen to the excerpts below and judge for yourself. Although he (and his legions of fellow educational theorists) seems partly aware of his biases, and frankly admits them, he also seems to be blithely oblivious to the depth of his political prejudices, which you’ll encounter below.

I’m not presenting this lecture in and of itself as a significant political watershed, nor as a shocking behind-the-scenes glimpse at academic bias. Rather, it’s just another random day at a random university; stuff like this goes on all the time. And it’s this normalcy of radicalism that makes it so alarming; people in the academic hothouse chat about the most disturbing ideas as if they were discussing the weather. The banality of subversion, as it were.

Below you will find six audio clips from his April 6 lecture, followed by six exact transcriptions. The sound quality of the audio is, admittedly, rather poor, so read the transcriptions as your main resource and only refer to the mp3s as proof that the transcriptions are true and accurate. The lecture was nearly two hours long in full, far too long to present in a short essay like this, plus I was only able to record segments of it, so what you see here are only excerpts; but they’re a fair representation of the overall lecture. (Portions of the transcriptions [in brackets] indicate words that are not clearly audible; Ellipses [...] indicate passages skipped because they were inaudible or were asides.)

Following each clip are brief comments and analyses by me.

Also scattered throughout the essay are photos I took of various slides in Brown’s PowerPoint presentation; if you want to see the whole thing as a PDF document, the Berkeley Language Center (which sponsored the lecture) has made it available here.

Ever wonder how “progressive” educators justify their one-sidedness? Behold:

Clip 1: “Agents for Change.”

Audio clip: Adobe Flash Player (version 9 or above) is required to play this audio clip. Download the latest version here. You also need to have JavaScript enabled in your browser.

Host: OK, well, it’s a great pleasure to introduce Professor H. Douglas Brown — Doug Brown — who is truly an iconic figure in language acquisition and language teaching broadly, incredibly influential with many years of experience. He’s professor emeritus at San Francisco State Department of English and also director for 22 years of the American Language Institute at S.F. State.

H. Douglas Brown: Thank you very much. …

The Postman and Weingartner book was intriguing to me because I thought, “Well, what do you mean teaching as a ‘subversive activity’? What are we talking about?” And of course what Postman and Weingartner were trying to point out, not for language teaching in particular but for education in America and the United States in general, to what extent are we shaping the lives of the children in our public schools and the kids in our high schools? To what extent are we perhaps subversively providing messages to them on: What is good? What is bad? What is right? What is wrong?

The first observation is that our motives are rooted in our desire to help people, to communicate across national, political, and religious boundaries and our desire to be agents for change in this world.

Wonderful phrase: “Agents for change.” And it certainly fits with that whole mentality that Postman and Weingartner were talking about in their “subversive teaching”; “agents of change.”


Right from the beginning Brown is unconsciously wrestling with the distinction between the book’s publication date of 1969, when the “right” and “wrong” values which teachers were conveying to students were presumed to be old-fashioned and reactionary and thus ripe for “subversion” by new teaching methods, versus today, when educators are now motivated by all sorts of noble ideals, and thus it’s OK for modern teachers to tell students what to feel. Of course, the philosophical framework no longer makes total sense, since (as a questioner after the lecture later pointed out), if teachers still want to be “agents for change,” the old puritan society they are rebelling against no longer really exists anymore, so what are they trying to “change” now if the change they sought already happened?


Whenever you see the phrase “Critical Pedagogy,” your indoctrination alarm bells should ring.

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