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Common Core: It Will Take A Village to Fight Their Village

Recently, anti-Common Core activists in Florida and Georgia (and other states) were treated to the nugatory charms of the “listening tour.”  State education officials carefully concealed the piles of crumpled twenties that Bill Gates shoved in their knickers and turned out to quote listen to the public unquote.

 

In other words, they pretended to give opponents of Common Core little snippets of time to speak on a vast, all-encompassing education reform that they, the elected officials in charge of education policy, have been laundering like illicit meth profits behind closed doors for years.  And so of course the activists sounded outraged and often emotional: how on earth do you address a sweeping, transformative, mostly-concealed program that touches every aspect of the education system and have been foisted on the public through backdoor methods we still only barely understand — all in three minutes or less?

The real objective of the listening tour, of course, was to shut up opposition to Common Core by claiming they have listened to us and heard what we had to say so they can get back to doing politics without any more interference from the little people.  I’m not saying that all the officials sitting on the dais acted that way.  If you know your elected official, then you can gauge the spirit in which he or she participated.  And frankly, the only way to even register our opposition to Common Core is to turn out for such events.

That’s why it is so important to get to know your elected official and give them a chance to prove themselves to you.

Bad politics exist everywhere, but good politics are usually local politics.

The lesson of the listening tour is that we will need to work together better in the future if we are going to be effective against a highly-coordinated coalition made up of wealthy foundations, professional poverty activists, elected officials, education bureaucrats, ed school professors, PBS, Chamber of Commerce boosters, and teacher’s unions.

We have taken on a very large task: we are demonstrating the audacity of asking an entire bureaucracy to behave as if it actually works for the people.  So as they’re wiping the tears of mirth from their eyes, we need to be ready with a well-coordinated offense.  For this fight, we need parents, taxpayers, our own education professors, home-schoolers, retired teachers, researchers, lobbyists, organizers, and, most importantly, effective foot soldiers in every corner of every state.

It will take a village to take our villages back.  For some reason this makes me think of the fight scene in Anchorman (the first one, not the highly disappointing sequel).  Remember, PBS were the bad guys in that, too.

Listening tours are dog-and-pony shows that always entail a certain measure of showmanship and deception.  How could we have done better, with just three minutes each to speak?  If we had coalitions in place, it would have been easier to meet beforehand to coordinate a series of responses — small pieces adding up to a larger response.  A coalition also commands more media attention, and with that we could issue press releases in response to the listening tour format itself.  The education bureaucracy does not want to be put in the position of having to fight on an even playing field — this is why they have been resistant to agreeing to public debates while presenting the “listening tour” they control as their solution for public input.

Like the fight scene in Anchorman, the Common Core fight is a fight among interested parties — the public is largely sitting this one out.  Maybe they’re traumatized by childhood memories of WholeLanguage learning or just too busy working that second job to pay for somebody else’s healthcare — I don’t know.  But the Common Core advocates have made this a difficult fight by making the Common Core materials themselves difficult, if not impossible to access, and there are only so many hours in the day.  That’s another reason to put some energy into working together more efficiently.

Despite being a veteran of many public hearings, I came away from the Common Core listening tour surprised by the degree of contempt some (not all) elected officials involved felt comfortable heaping on their audiences . . . also known as their constituents . . . also known as their employers.  We are facing a situation the ancient Greeks referred to as catching your elected official with his hand stuck in the cookie jar, so feelings are understandably running high.  But that is no excuse for some of the behavior I witnessed.

In Dawsonville, Georgia, State Representative Brooks Coleman (R – 97), Chairman of the House Education Committee, set a particularly dismissive, hectoring tone.

And that was before he began grabbing people by the arms and berating them.

At a meeting that started in the evening after most attendees had clocked a day of work, Coleman played every time-wasting, status-asserting game in the book.  He delayed the meeting to indulge in obsequious, long-winded praise for the public college officials who gave him use of a school auditorium (in other words, state employees who work for us opened up a room that belongs to us, for our use).  To their credit, the officials looked embarrassed at Coleman’s faux fervent gratitude.  Then, he could barely contain his ire throughout the event.  Afterwards, as he worked the crowd, he actually grabbed my arm and shook it while hissing that I was wrong about Georgia accepting Gates funding to implement Common Core.

Of course, I was right and he was wrong.  What’s more interesting is that we both knew it, yet he hung onto my arm and stuck with the lie, too.

Prove it, he said.

I just did.  Again.

Moments like these can tell you everything you need to know about a political fight.  Here are some of the things I observed:

  • They know the gig is up, and sunlight is pouring in.  Both Brooks Coleman and I knew that we were standing in an auditorium built with my tax dollars, at an event subsidized by my tax dollars, and that he, an elected official paid with my tax dollars, was lying to me about money the state Department of Education had received from an unelected, unaccountable third party: Bill Gates.
  •  At that moment, Coleman felt indebted to Bill Gates in ways that he does not feel indebted to the actual citizens and taxpayers of Georgia — the people he is legally sworn to represent and is being paid to represent.  Coleman felt indebted enough to Gates to lie to hide the fact that Gates and his cohort are calling the shots within our education system.
  • Coleman keeps saying — and his counterparts in Florida say the same — that opponents of Common Core don’t know what the real curriculum looks like.  This is true — because they are doing everything in their power to keep the public from perusing it.  So we should follow his lead: the first thing we should do is demand access to all curricular materials.  Then we can have the debate about what is being taught in the schools that should have preceded the adoption of Common Core in the first place.  Thanks, Brooks.  Great idea.
  • Elsewhere, Coleman fibbed to the incurious mouthpieces who pretend to be political reporters at the Atlanta Journal Constitution.  To the mouthpieces, he said that the public at the speaking tours had delivered the following message to him: “Stick with the national set of academic standards called Common Core, superintendents, teachers and parents have told them.”  Of course this is not true.  The superintendents and teachers  may have said so, but during them time set aside for the public to comment, the attendees were overwhelmingly anti-Common Core.

    Coleman also told the story that Common Core was actually the invention of southern governors — and he was in on it — and so, he scolded, we don’t know what we’re talking about when we oppose it and talk about involvement by the federal government.  “Bet’cha didn’t know that” he challenged.  Since Mr. Coleman did not listen to my response that night, let me offer it again here:  Yes, I do know about the educational standards envisioned by the southern governors.  I also know about E.D. Hirsh’s admirable efforts to introduce dense, traditional content in K – 12 classrooms in New York City, efforts which are similarly cited as inspiring Common Core.

    But there’s a catch.  Neither the southern governors’ nor E.D. Hirsch’s vision are much in evidence in Common Core today.  They may have had a good idea at one time, but that good idea is not the thing that plops into your child’s hands from the pricey, jargon-laden textbook program firing up on Bill Gates’ donated tablets.

    The southern governors invented the idea that became Common Core.  That doesn’t make the current boondoggle more palatable: it just makes them more culpable for it.  Culpable for the Boondoggle is my idea for a slogan for this movement, by the way, but I’m flexible about that.

    So the listening tours were a colossal waste of time.  That was a feature, not a bug: they wasted your time and put you down and wore you out, and when you didn’t fall in line anyway, they simply lied to the media about what you said, and the media broadcast their lies for them.  Oh, and they made certain everyone saw the armed security guards at the entrances so they could make it seem as if we were a dangerous bunch.  That’s a strategy too.

    You still have to go back if there is another listening tour.  Just know what they’re going to pull this time, and be ready.

    The really exciting thing about the Common Core listening tours was that people showed up who don’t even participate in the anti-Common Core movement, and they had interesting arguments against Common Core.  There were professors of education and parents and retired teachers and principals.  No matter how hard the media works to make the movement seem like a fringe group, they are failing because that is a lie, too.  They will keep trying, and they will keep failing.

    Now is the time for us to assess who is with us and what we have to offer to each other.  In Florida, the Florida Stop Common Core Coalition is holding a coalition-building meeting on January 11.  If a representative from your group wants to attend — FSCCC is a coalition of groups, not individuals — contact Chrissy Blevio at their website, or contact this blog, tinatrent2@yahoo.com.  I will be running the training.

    Even if you aren’t in Florida, read Dr. Karen Effram’s essential analyses of Common Core legislation.  If you are in Georgia, the good ladies at the Educational Freedom Coalition are doing amazing work (order their bookmarks), as is Jane Robbins from the American Principles Project; Mary Grabar at Dissident Prof, and researcher extraordinaire Robin Eubanks at Invisible Serfs Collar — buy her book, Credentialed to Destroy:

    The Story Killers out in the Selous Foundation magazine.  She writes:

    Every concerned parent, grandparent, and citizen should read this, for Moore cuts through the obfuscation to reveal Common Core as “a complete consolidation and nationalization of a public education in America.” It’s the final step in a 50-year process of the progressive takeover of education.

    I concur: it’s an amazing book.  Read Mary’s review, and check out the Selous Foundation’s other education reports.

    They’ve had fifty years to break education: we’ve had just a few months to begin to figure this thing out.  We’re at the beginning of a long fight to bring back proven, traditional education.  They’re at the end of the time during which they thought they could get away with anything quietly.  The first public confrontation — the “listening” tours — gave us a lot of ammunition.  We know their excuses and we know what they think of us . . . and of themselves.  Read The Story Killers, get with a group, and get ready for the session.  This fight has just begun.

     

Why Build Permanent Coalitions to Fight the Common Core? Because This Fight is Going to be a Long One.

The fight against Common Core is not going to end with the defeat of Common Core.

Too much damage has been done to education.  The damage emanates from the education schools, which were taken over by radicals back in the 1960’s and then became the stomping grounds for the most intellectually dim and narcissistic domestic terrorists of that era — people like Bill Ayers.    It was clever of the bomb-throwers to pack up their dynamite and turn to their daddies’ rolodexes to score jobs training future teachers, but they alone did not radicalize teacher education, of course.  It was the work of many hands.

I was at a Tea Party meeting in Manatee County and a retired teacher (you meet many retired teachers in the Tea Party) told me an interesting story: when she started in education, the college students who were training to become teachers were among the most conservative students on campuses. A few years later, they had become the most radical.  What happened?   For one thing, the end of the war in Vietnam coincided with the demise of the two-parent household among the poor — so, as activists flocked to education schools looking for new causes, K – 12 classrooms were becoming more chaotic and unstable because of broken homes.  It was a perfect storm.

That was more than forty years ago.

It is hard to quantify the harm that has been done to the discipline of teaching teachers in just a few generations.  Like everything else in higher education, radicalism protected by tenure grows exponentially, blotting out other possibilities for students and teachers, and many teaching schools are now largely irredeemable.  Today, a professor of education who so much as deigns to correct the grammar of his graduate students can face violent shaming and forced re-education at their hands, with full cooperation by the administration.  Few education professors remain who disapprove of such behavior, and fewer still are courageous enough to oppose it out loud.

Radicalism has been rendered so normative in higher education that the Maoist theories of Paulo Friere rank among the most-assigned readings for aspiring teachers throughout the United States.  To get a sense of the crisis in teaching teachers, read this 2009 essay about Paolo Friere and teacher’s colleges, by Sol Stern:

Since the publication of the English edition in 1970, Pedagogy of the Oppressed has achieved near-iconic status in America’s teacher-training programs. In 2003, David Steiner and Susan Rozen published a study examining the curricula of 16 schools of education—14 of them among the top-ranked institutions in the country, according to U.S. News and World Report—and found that Pedagogy of the Oppressed was one of the most frequently assigned texts in their philosophy of education courses. These course assignments are undoubtedly part of the reason that, according to the publisher, almost 1 million copies have sold, a remarkable number for a book in the education field.

The odd thing is that Freire’s magnum opus isn’t, in the end, abouteducation—certainly not the education of children. Pedagogy of the Oppressed mentions none of the issues that troubled education reformers throughout the twentieth century: testing, standards, curriculum, the role of parents, how to organize schools, what subjects should be taught in various grades, how best to train teachers, the most effective way of teaching disadvantaged students. This ed-school bestseller is, instead, a utopian political tract calling for the overthrow of capitalist hegemony and the creation of classless societies. Teachers who adopt its pernicious ideas risk harming their students—and ironically, their most disadvantaged students will suffer the most.

Also ironic?  Sol Stern himself, who with E.D. Hirsh was a strong advocate for returning to the teaching of traditional texts in classrooms, has come out as a staunch defender of Common Core, which he claims will achieve that goal.  Stern is technically right that Common Core standards were first conceived as a way to introduce more traditional content in classrooms that had long ago ceased to teach anything resembling traditional content.  But it is a measure of the damage that has been done to schools of education that Stern’s good intentions gave rise to the Common Core boondoggle we’re dealing with today.  It is also a shame that Stern himself is not able to see this — likely because he was given some latitude under Bloomberg to shape the development of Common Core standards for New York City, so he could develop materials that remain somewhat true to his original vision.

In the rest of the nation, we are not so lucky.  The lesson for the rest of us is that any reform filtered through the highly radical waters of the teaching schools will emerge highly radicalized.  And any reform that concentrates power in the hands of the Department of Education and the teacher-training establishment will only amp up the influence of their Frierian-Marxist, anti-western claptrap.  Common Core is nothing new under the sun: it is merely a non-optional centralized delivery system for all the bad ideas that were planted before it.

The anti-Common Core activists are coming to this fight in the 11th hour.  There is a great deal we must learn about the depth of the crisis in education schools and the maze-like education bureaucracy.

The only solution to the crisis in teaching schools is to create alternative institutions.  Conservative colleges like Hillsdale and Patrick Henry need to start franchising schools of education.  The only solution for the crisis in K – 12 education is to fight against Common Core, defeat it, then keep fighting.  We need to create permanent partnerships to start taking back K – 12 education, piece by piece.  No matter what you think of Sol Stern’s current stance on the Common Core, read his article about Paolo Friere and the education establishment: these are the stakes of the long-term battle to come.

An Academic Friend, See Thru Edu, and a Great Book on Great Books and the Common Core

The subtitle for this blog is:   Academia.  Crime.  Politics.

It has been pointed out to me on several occasions that the slogan is redundant.  I agree.

But there are still a few people in academia who stand up to the gaseous tyrants who make up ever-larger portions of the tenured class.  Bob Paquette of Hamilton College is one of them.  Dr. Paquette is a much-respected historian of slavery, with decades of accolades for his work.  But when he spoke out in defense of teaching Western Civilization and against the unhinged radicalization of academic programs at his college, he found himself on the receiving end of the usual, intellectually incoherent backlash.

How unhinged and intellectually incoherent?  The details are the stuff of vaudevillian humor:

So a Weather Underground terrorist, Ward Churchill, and a Raelian sex cult cloning scientist walk into a faculty lounge in upstate New York . . .

Read the rest here.

Paquette blogs at the website See Thru Edu, which is an essential resource on higher education for conservatives.  He takes the Tea Party movement seriously (like few in academia).  I want to point readers to two recent blog posts he wrote, one about the treatment of Sarah Palin, and this essay, which I encourage you to read and share with anyone who has or will have children attending college:

How Our Universities Breed Intolerance

[T]he Tea Party … have elicited a torrent of denunciation on elite college campuses and have spurred restless nights for the barons of both the Republican and Democratic parties. [They] have an independent, populist, and anti-elitist bent.  No matter who is manning the presidential helm, they have concluded, the country they love remains tossing and turning in waters ever more dangerous to them and to their traditional values, which they once thought were mainstream.  They see themselves being squeezed in a vise in which the turning device, attached to the upper clamp, manufactures the energy for the lower clamp to screw from below. In their search for a moral social order, they feel increasingly betrayed by many of the country’s most important institutions:  government, churches, unions, and schools.

… [Tea Partiers] represent legions far more diverse than your typical university faculty. They wear blue collars as well as white collars, populate northern and southern climes, and collectively groan under growing burdens of taxes and statist regulation.

The essay offers advice to parents of college-bound students, with more to come in future work:

Take this advice.  The brand of elite colleges is overrated and has more to do with the screening process of able admissions officers than the value-added during four years of matriculation.  Many of the chaired professors at elite universities have little intensive contact with undergraduates. Few bear the onerous tasks of intensively grading exams and papers. Outstanding teachers exist at every major institution of higher education in the country.  The trick is locating them. For that you need an insider. A professor whom you can trust to direct your son or daughter to the best, that is the most knowledgeable, demanding, and nurturing professors in their fields, those willing to spend time with serious students, is worth his weight in Ivy-League tuition dollars.

With its focus on higher education, See Thru Edu does not often discuss Common Core.  But Mary Grabar of Dissident Prof has posted there, and she recently introduced me an amazing new book: Terrence Moore’s The Story-Killers.  I’m only one chapter into it, but I can’t recommend it highly enough, as both a great read about the importance of literature instruction and a devastating, substantive critique of contemporary education reforms.

Moore is a teacher (and former Marine) — if you’re going to read one book about Common Core, this is it.

And if you’re in Atlanta area, Terrence Moore is coming to Gainesville on January 13 to speak with Jane Robbins of the American Principles Project and State Senator William Ligon in an event sponsored by the Georgia Concerned Women for America.

The fight has only just begun.

Political Science’s Hateful Pseudoscience: Harvard’s Theda Skocpol Wants The Tea Party to Stop Participating in Politics

Unlike literature professors, whose impenetrable secret twin languages and embarrassing fixation on their own genitals tend to keep them off the editorial pages, political scientists are always with us, especially during elections, when they slap on their wizard hats to make predictions that range from the pseudo-wise (I predict there will be . . . an election on November 7) to the pseudo-scholarly (Obama is magic!).

Political science just keeps getting worse as the last holdouts from a generation that at least feigned objectivity die off and get replaced by ideologues who are so far removed from objectivity that they’re feigning scholarship instead.

Nowhere is this tendency more obvious than in the growing field of Tea Party Studies.  No, they don’t call it that, but they might just have to invent a name to tell the paramedics.  Tenured political scientist types contemplating this citizen participation movement become so unhinged that their normally pseudo-scientific discourse spins off into something that virtually needs to be translated back into English from banshee.  All the shrieking is surely tough on those last five unreconstructed poly-sci professors cowering at the end of the hall, longing for the days when they could quietly feed voter lists into the Harwell Dekatron.

I’ve been trying to read the growing crop of academic Tea Party books alongside the growing crop of academic Occupy books, but it’s like watching a coven try to stab their mothers to death while using a Ouija Board to wake up the chicken they had for dinner last week.  One would think, based solely on evidence from the library shelf, that the many, many millions of highly constructive participants in the Occupy movement managed to cure cancer using only the consensus model of decision-making while the two dozen or so Tea Partiers were busy out back burning tires and forcing the womenfolk to mend their pointy hoods for them.  And I realize that last bit is not funny, but it is a not-inaccurate description of what academicians think about the Tea Party: they think (to use the word loosely) that Tea Partiers are murderous, calculating-yet-stupid racists who need to proactively be wiped from the earth, or at least the voter rolls, if ever American politics can be made to emanate goodness and light again.

Take, for example, this essay by the Victor S. Thomas Professor of Government and Sociology at Harvard University, Theda Skocpol.  There’s a lot to laugh at, from Ms. Skopol’s breathless Cosmo style of describing her own scholarship (she deploys a “full panoply of research”) to her bizarre euphemism for virtue: “active government.”  Then there’s her evidence for proving that the Tea Party is stupid: Tea Party members, she tells us breathlessly, sometimes vote for different people during primaries:

During the last election cycle, no far-right candidate ever consolidated sustained grassroots Tea Party support, as those voters hopped from Rick Perry to Herman Cain to Newt Gingrich to Rick Santorum.

For those of you unschooled in the full panoply of the academic method, what Skocpol is saying here is that Tea Partiers are so stupid that they actually hold differences of opinion, unlike Democrats, who are demonstrating only intellectual prowess when they, say, dump Hillary Clinton in the 11th hour because Barack Obama’s handlers managed to paint a big R on her forehead while his aides snapped photos of themselves drunkenly fake-raping a cardboard cutout of the former First Lady.

Once you get the hang of the theoretical framework (Democrats good: Conservatives eeevil; Tea Party rrracist), the rest of Skopol’s work isn’t hard to grasp — because there isn’t any of it.  It also can’t be very hard to write, which at least makes her efficient at playing faux populist while carrying water for the insider trading billionaires, hedge fund owners, real estate developers, trust fund babies and other secretive Democracy Alliance types who pay her and her fellow intellectuals to criticize the Tea Party . . . by accusing them of being dupes for secretive billionaires, hedge fund owners, real estate developers, and trust fund babies.

Out here in the non-academic air, such behavior is called psychological projection, or just dishonesty, but in academia it goes by the name of civic engagement, and Ms. Skopol is one of the most civic engagers around, being director of the Scholars Strategy Network, which describes itself as “a federated membership association for civically engaged scholars at colleges and universities across the United States.”  It is really a multi-campus-based propaganda tool for the Democratic Party.

The practice of political science was bad enough when its confidence men merely combined the calculated dishonesty of political operatives with the logorrhea of the intellectual class.  But now that academia has tipped to full-throttle leftism, it has grown both more shrill and less intelligent, even at its own invented games.  Ms. Skocpol actually presents, as evidence of Tea Party malfeasance, the fact that Tea Parties sometimes produce voter’s guides.  The voter’s guide is an entirely ordinary political tool used, of course, by all political parties, but in the hands of the Tea Party it becomes, to Skocpol, a de facto weapon of malevolence:

[V]arious right-wing tracking organizations … keep close count of where each legislator stands on “key votes”—including even votes on amendments and the tiniest details of parliamentary procedure, the kind of votes that legislative leaders used to orchestrate in the dark.

Horrors.  The Tea Party is so actually civically engaged that its members want to know how congressional voting works and to share that knowledge with others.  How dare they question the totemic rituals performed by our Capitol Hill Overlords.  This sort of thing would be funny if it were not disturbing that an endowed Chair at Harvard would argue that citizens should not look too closely at politics — and that she does so in the name of civic engagement.

But the kicker is this: Skocpol doesn’t just think the Tea Party is full of stupid people.  She wrote the editorial in question in order to dumb down her “research” to make it accessible to the little people on her own side, the ones who agree with her politics.  That is the mission of the Scholars Strategy Network, though of course they put it differently on their homepage.  It is a measure of how little she thinks of the little people of the Left that she doesn’t admit to them that Scholars Strategy Network itself promotes political report cards as she denounces the Tea Party for using political report cards.

And so Theda Skocpol efficiently conflates all the magical beliefs driving political science today: if the Right does something like voting, it’s bad; if the Left does anything, it’s noble — and — if political scientists are doing it, it’s obviously above reproach.

 

Common Core: The Bluest Eye Debate

I’m coming late to the discussion about the inclusion of Toni Morrison’s novella Bluest Eye on high school reading lists (it is a popular choice for high school and college English classes as well as women’s studies classes, and this popularity predates the relatively new Common Core standards debates).  Some activists who became aware of the Toni Morrison book through their opposition to Common Core are arguing that Bluest Eye endorses child molestation because the book contains a character who is a molester speaking in the first person, and Morrison herself has made comments to the effect that she is trying to get readers to see his point of view, comments that are being taken out of context and misconstrued.  Incidentally, the book is also extremely graphic, more graphic than many people who are weighing in to defend it seem to be aware of — I suspect many of them didn’t actually read the book.

I don’t think The Bluest Eye is in any way an endorsement of pedophilia.  But I also don’t think that it, and other “problem story” books like it, are appropriate for literature classes — nor that they are put on the curriculum for their qualities as literature in the first place.  We’ve turned English and literature classes (excuse me, language arts) into social problem encounter sessions — sessions that often devolve into narcissistic competitions between varying claims of victimization.

This isn’t a new development: when I attended high school in the early 1980’s, Ordinary People was the “problem story” we were spoon-fed.  I remember embarrassing classroom discussions where the teacher seemed to be screening us for The Warning Signs of Suicide Attempts By Nice Middle-Class Kids, and to this day I also remember the general horror when she tried to make us talk in class about references to masturbation in the story.  To make things worse, rather than just being about thinking about Elizabeth McGovern, who played the love interest in the film version, masturbation was presented therapeutically — as the solution to anxiety recommended to the main character by his earthy white-ethnic psychiatrist — so there were layers upon layers of creepy psychologizing and equally creepy racial stereotyping being imposed on us.

I remember thinking at the time that the moral lesson of Ordinary People was the opposite of the moral lesson of Johnny Tremain.  I also thought it might be a sneaky exercise in making us appreciate reading Shakespeare.  For that, at least, it was effective: I gladly embraced the rigors of Elizabethan verse after wallowing in the claustrophobic wimpiness and snide references to female WASP frigidity unleashed by Robert Redford in his unpleasant movie version of that unpleasant, practically anti-literary novel.

Poor Mary Tyler Moore, too.

The Bluest Eye isn’t appropriate for children.  Full stop.  And though it is generally recommended only for 11th and 12th graders, I don’t think it’s appropriate for them, either, because any protracted classroom discussion forces students to engage in a sort of competitive demonizing — whites and child molesters being the targets — while simultaneously forcing discussion of extremely graphic sexual assaults, which is not appropriate for any literature classroom — including college classrooms.

Yet, Bluest Eye doesn’t endorse pedophilia. It accurately depicts the ways pedophiles view their crimes — how they seek tacit approval from society while abusing and grooming their victims.  It’s a powerful book for that, though the ways I have seen it taught have much more to do with creating tension between students of different races based on the child character’s feelings about whiteness.  And the way Morrison conflates “whiteness” with child molestation from the victim’s perception is disturbing.

It might be a good book for a college or graduate-level psychology or criminology course if the purpose of the assignment was learning about the dynamics of sex offenses involving children.  It’s also beautifully written, though I think Morrison cribs an awful lot — pretty much everything stylistic — from Faulkner.

The justification given for such readings — the claims that “social problem” books should be taught to “sensitize” and give voice to victims and help them speak out — is largely just self-aggrandizement by educators.

The activists who became aware of The Bluest Eye through their scrutiny of Common Core materials are certainly on the right track.  Through fighting Common Core, they are gaining an ever-deepening understanding of what academia has become.  The movement is maturing impressively fast, and the deeper they dig, the more evidence they’re uncovering about the ways that Common Core is both a new threat to local control of education — and just the latest iteration of the political and emotional manipulation that took over K – 12 classrooms a long time ago.

But to say that The Bluest Eye is sympathetic to child molesters is not defensible.

 

Political Organizing Notes: The Irony of ALEC versus Better Georgia (and Their Apologists at the AJC)

I have no use for monied special interests of any political stripe. But conflating the conservative business lobbying group ALEC (American Legislative Exchange Council) with the Trayvon Martin tragedy, as Jim Galloway of the Atlanta Journal Constitution does here and has done elsewhere, is unspeakably sleazy.

Jim Galloway: Giving Indignation a Bad Name

The AJC used to practice some standards in its political reporting. No matter where Galloway’s predecessor stood on issues, he made an effort to be even-handed, and this sort of character assassination was not routine.  No more: Jim Galloway sets a deeply nasty, unprofessional, uninformed tone.

How uninformed?  It’s amazing how fast sloppiness takes over when the newsroom stops even trying to present a facade of objectivity.  This AJC story uncritically apes a press release from the vaguely-named, doesn’t-practice-what-they-preach group, Better Georgia.  And by being busy with such uncritical aping, Jim Galloway and his trusty polysci sidekicks miss some pretty glaring flaws —  one might call them ironies — in the Better Georgia report.

But “miss” is not quite the right term: “cover-up” is better, as I’ll explain below.

By all means take a look at the ALEC report from Better Georgia — you’ll see revelations of a bunch of $12 lunches and so on. Horrors!  Is it really possible that giant special interests buy legislators lunch, send them to conferences, and give them money for their campaigns?

The point is not that these are good things: outsized influence in politics is not good, but, contrary to what Better Georgia wants you to believe with their breathless exposé, everyone in politics does it.   Verizon does it and the ACLU does it; Apple Corporation does it; the Eagle Forum does it; Planned Parenthood does it; the Christian Coalition does it.

More to the point, Better Georgia does it, but what is even more ironic than just doing it is how they do it: they do it by engaging in precisely the same tax-deductible sleights-of-hand that they condemn in ALEC and others.  They do it with money funneled through various nonprofit schemes, some unaccountable, some with changing names, some using precisely the same tax reporting loopholes they scream about when other groups use them.

Ironically, Better Georgia is the real fake grassroots organization with a top-down agenda — an accusation they falsely fling at ALEC, which doesn’t pretend to be what it is not.  Better Georgia is the Georgia office for ProgressNow, a Soros-funded network of powerful leftist political operators who use their state-level groups to gain credibility in the media (a not-too-difficult task with sycophants like Jim Galloway to carry their water) and to present a local face.   Depending on the state, chapters of ProgressNow focus on different issues to mobilize local activism, but they focus mainly on the progressive/leftist/Democrat/public school employee/NEA agenda.

After all, that’s where state political power resides: educator unions are pretty much the biggest leftist power base, especially in Republican-controlled states.  In right-to-work  Republican states, they’re among the few unions powerful enough to make demands at all.  Teacher’s unions and other progressive groups use Better Georgia as a shell organization as scores of lefty foundations and donors from elsewhere help perpetuate and bankroll the fraud.  It’s a way for Democratic Party operatives to extend their state-level reach through faux-local politics.  Just take a look at their website: it’s a confection of professionally manufactured vagueness, right down to the neutral-sounding name and odd lack of detail.

Contrast this with ALEC, which openly names its corporate members and openly promotes its political agenda, no matter what you think of that agenda.

Better Georgia could not perpetrate this fraud without armies of lackeys in the media and in academia.  Ironies abound: in thousands of newspaper stories and a growing dungheap of pseudo-academic “studies,” the Tea Party, which is an actual grassroots movement, is attacked by the Jim Galloways of the world for being an astroturf group.  Meanwhile, Galloway and his editors at the AJC help perpetrate a deception by reporting on Better Georgia as if it were a real “grassroots” group arising spontaneously from citizen action, rather than the brainchild of a group of professional DNC operatives.

In some ways, Better Georgia has a similar profile to Americans For Prosperity, a national nonprofit of the right that partners (and I mean partner) with Tea Party groups.  I realize heads might explode at this comparison, but I think it’s apt in several ways.  In both cases, a national nonprofit that is not entirely transparent about its motives and organization creates state offices to maximize its influence on state-level legislation.  In both cases, the big nonprofit claims membership from among the ranks of local activists and purports to speak for those activists on a wide range of issues and legislation.  Both have people who join locally, but Better Georgia, being part of a leftist, union-driven movement, probably speaks more seamlessly for individual members’ interests because those interests — growing the government dependency culture, defending union and public worker turf, opposing school choice, socializing medicine  — march in lockstep with its members’ paychecks and pocketbooks.  The relationship between AFP and Tea Party groups is much more voluntary, and often much more rocky, a fact that speaks well for the Tea Party and even sometimes for AFP — at least when they play fair, which isn’t always the case.

AFP tries to use the power of the grassroots to advance their agenda, but the Tea Party and related groups are fiercely independent and genuinely citizen-led.  While they often have common cause with AFP, AFP is not the Tea Party, though in Florida in particular they pretend as if they run the movement, and I have seen some very ugly efforts in that state to try silence Tea Party activists.  I doubt Better Georgia has such problems — precisely because a victory for Better Georgia generally means that the taxpayers, and not their members, are on the hook for one thing or another: taxpayers are the grudging involuntary “partners” in Better Georgia’s every scheme.

And of course the media hysterically demonizes the Koch brothers, who make many jobs in this state and elsewhere and are reportedly very ethical employers, no matter the problems with AFP.  ALEC is similarly the victim of relentless media smears, a trend that is accelerating with this recent Better Georgia report — and the reports simultaneously generated in other states by other ProgressNow “affiliates.”

Better Georgia’s report on ALEC is pure partisan agitprop.  I haven’t had much time to look at it, but one thing immediately jumps out: the research selectively focuses on donations to Republicans in this state while ignoring donations made to Democrats by the very same companies.  This is a very useful side-effect of the state-based pseudo-activism model.  For example, in Republican-majority Georgia, ProgressNow’s front group Better Georgia can attack every company that donates to Republicans; meanwhile, their group in California, Courage Campaign, can avoid criticizing the same companies when those companies donate to the Democratic elected officials there.  That’s political expediency at its slickest (check out the website of Better Georgia’s California partner to see a less covert version of the group’s radical aims).

Also, when it takes three paragraphs to describe how a school choice bill for handicapped students is a Tool of the Man, you’re either not very good at producing agitprop, or you are very good at it.  It’s hard to tell, however, how good Better Georgia really is at manufacturing agitprop because they’re getting such a helping hand from the media — and the taxpayers, who were forced to fund that Grady High School video.

If there were real political reporters left at the AJC, there would be some semblance of nuance in discussions about Better Georgia, ProgressNow, ALEC, AFP, the Tea Party, and a host of other political issues.  Readers might even learn something when they read the AJC, which changed its slogan a few years ago from Covers Dixie Like The Dew to the highly funny yet less amusing following non-trifecta: Credible. Compelling. Complete.