Wednesday, November 30, 2011

Indoctrinating You and Yours

There's a new book out which just received a good write up on Big Government, which looks as if it will be very much worth your while to read. I haven't read the actual book myself, yet, but the blurbs and comments in the reviews of it are by turns shocking and entirely unsurprising to me. For instance, here's one about teachers indoctrinating their grammar students in leftist ideology,
"But more and more American K-12 teachers are bringing their politics into the classroom, brazenly acknowledging their effort to indoctrinate and recruit a new generation of radical, anti-American students.
“The long period of self-censorship among educators regarding class and labor issues may no longer hold,” wrote radical educator Rob Linne in his book “Organizing the Curriculum.”
“We cannot claim to be teaching for social justice if we ignore the class warfare being waged all around us. Bringing labor into the arena of K-12 education will undoubtedly meet political resistance, but an increasing number of educators are motivated to take up the challenge.”
That frightening approach to teaching is what motivated Education Action Group to publish a new book titled “Indoctrination: How ‘Useful Idiots’ are Using Our Schools to Subvert American Exceptionalism.
Personally I don't find that at all surprising... do you? Really? Here's another,
"In his foreword for the book, FOX News contributor and former Clinton advisor Dick Morris bemoans the fact that educators are willing to brainwash young minds before they have the ability to fully understand and judge issues on their own.
“We have become accustomed to hearing American history and politics misinterpreted by leftist university professors,” Morris writes. “But (now) we see the insidious indoctrination at the elementary and secondary levels. At least university students can think for themselves. (The book) explains how 7- and 8-year-olds are taught to embrace an atheistic, leftist philosophy virtually from the time they enter school.”
And one more, just for fun,
"The book also discusses Chicago teacher Kati Gilson, who taught her preschoolers about her 2011 trip to Madison to protest the collective bargaining policies of Wisconsin Gov. Scott Walker. She also taught them new words like “strike,” “collective bargaining,” and “negotiate.”
“My preschoolers understand what a protest march is and why it is important,” Gilson wrote.
“As we gear up for what looks like a big battle it is important for us to teach our children and families why we are taking a stand.”
Is this what we pay school taxes for?"
Isn't that special? But is it surprising?

No. Not in the least. Why do I say that?

You don't read this blog much, do you?

A post or two ago, I mentioned a fellow I was going back and forth with on facebook, who I called "FR", who described himself as an 'avowed socialist', and who proclaimed quite cooly that he did not believe in individual rights, and that he felt government using its power to create basic rights and minimum entitlements was just fine, and what it should do:
"You mistake rights without realizing that they are both means and ends.
More importantly, I think falling into this rights language lets us ignore the reality: that all of society is about coercion and force. You exercise force over people all the time. There isn't anything particularly more remote than a government doing it, compossed of people who pass rules made by people. Government is a body we've agreed represents a broader consensus than most personal interactions of force.
I also think there's a broad strawman about the government making decisions 'for you'. Yes, the government took your tax dollars. The government then provided health care for a 12 year old child who's family can't afford it but wanted it. In one sense, the government did make a decision for that family. On the other hand, that government also provided them with something that they needed but couldn't have. The reality is that when we talk about the government 'making decisions' for you, what really mean is that the government, as a collective action body for a society, benefits some over others and tries to control those benefits. Well, yes. It is force.
But it is only different in that it has legal force behind it. Society and living in one is about social coercion at all levels.
The federal government did have to intervene and make decisions for people in a wide array of circumstance that we certainly approve of now: forced integration of public facilities, protection of minority voters and their voting rights, etc. It's not always the federal government that does it best, but many times, the pure scale of the effort mandates a larger response.""
I mentioned at about that point in the post, that as I was reading his answers, a sick feeling overcame me and I clicked on his profile to discover that my sinking feeling was well founded - he was a teacher. Of World History. Not in a public school, but in what most people consider to be the more 'safe' sort, a Charter School.

What I didn't mention, was a very forthright equivalent of intellectual racism which he was proudly teaching to his students - this is from a comment on his facebook page, in thanks for a blog post of his that was picked up by Think Progress, In Teaching Cultural Literacy, Who Gets To Determine The Canon?, for which Ferny says:
"Thanks for the recognition! This journey I'm on with my students is going to continue and I plan on talking a lot more about the challenge of teaching students to enter a world of white cultural power, where their goal is to win and define their own cultural space for themselves and others.
I totally agree with the totalizing effect that Hirsch can have. Taken without criticism, the idea of cult...ural literacy just becomes a way to teach white trivia to our students.
I think, more importantly, this trivia needs to be taken as a reality of a culture of power and that we need to dismantle large parts of this privilege. Our goal is to empower our students so that they can do the hard work of expanding the canon for their generation and the next."[emphasis mine]
The post by Ferny Reyes, which was picked up by Think Progress, is here:
"Since I began the blog, I’ve switched locations and employment. Currently, I’m situated in Houston, TX, working at YES Prep SW, a high-performing charter school. When I say high-performing, I mean it: our test scores are among the highest in the state, we send 100% of our students to four-year colleges, and the selectivity of the colleges our students is only increasing. I recently showed a quiz I was giving my students for Islam to a couple of friends of mine who have attended college and taken classes on Islam.
The quiz covered material they would have covered in their college classes in 3-4 weeks of class. I did it in four classes, with a bit of homework. My students did well. I can confidently say that I have great students and that they work hard. Our goal here at SW is to prepare our students not just to be college-eligible, but to be college-ready."
Isn't that fantastic? His students were rigorously instructed about Islam, and their scores compared favorably with those of college students. Nice.

What do you suppose his enthusiasm level is for Western Culture? Yeah... good guess; in it he notes,
"To quickly summarize before continuing: power exists. As an educator who is training students to enter a culture of power that is not theirs, I have to make it explicit and I have to teach the cultural literacy behind the institutions of power they’ll have to navigate. I cannot, in good conscience, pretend that their cultural experiences will be valued for all that they are worth and that they won’t be judged for not having those markers of cultural knowledge. I forced myself to read the ‘classics’ of Western Civilization before attending school, but I constantly felt that the philosophers and ideas that were being dropped on a regular basis completely baffled me. I still can’t exactly tell the difference between the Rolling Stones, Led Zeppelin and other famous rock bands, though I at least know a phrase or two from popular songs."
His students scored fantastically on Islam, but if Ferny was 'completely baffled' by Western philosophers... those guys who came up with 'white cultural ideas' like the rule of law, freedom, liberty... what do you suppose his students 'picked up' from him on them?

The book he is referring to, is by Ed Hirsh, an intellectually filthy barbarian, IMHO, whose idea of 'cultural literacy' Ferny accurately describes as:
"...If each local school system imparts the traditional reference points of literate culture, then everybody is able to communicate with strangers. That is a good definition of literacy: the ability to communicate effectively with strangers. We help people in the underclass rise economically by teaching them how to communicate effectively beyond a narrow social sphere, and that can only be accomplished by teaching them shared, traditional literacy culture. We only make social and economic progress by teaching everybody to read and communicate, which means teaching myths and facts that are predominantly traditional...."[emphasis mine]
This is what... this the ALL that you can expect from those who view the purpose of 'school' as being to 'teach' socially and economically useful 'skills'. Our Founders saw the purpose of Education as being making one self aware, able to understand your ideas and your place in the world, inclined towards being moral, virtuous and able to govern yourself, so as to be capable of living in liberty, and contributing to your life and that of your society as a result.

One of those who contributed to that idea of Education and 'literacy', was Aristotle, one of those 'baffling' old dead white guys, who said in his Nicomachean Ethics,
"...for it is the mark of an educated man to look for precision in each class of things just so far as the nature of the subject admits; it is evidently equally foolish to accept probable reasoning from a mathematician and to demand from a rhetorician scientific proofs..."
and from his "On Metaphysics(Book IV)"
"... for not to know of what things one should demand demonstration, and of what one should not, argues want of education. "
In the Western Cultural tradition, Eduction was to improve your ability to Reason, in order to pursue, discover, test and recognize the Truth; familiarity with the same stories your grandfather knew was a useful result, a side effect, not the purpose, of an Education. Montaigne put it as “A traditional liberal arts curriculum of history, language, and literature--the arts that liberate," of educating one to be worthy of Liberty.

Those... are the ideas which Ferny, a World History Teacher, refers to as 'baffling'.

Doesn't surprise me a bit.


Do you remember my post on an earlier Cassandra, from 1920? He'd tried to warn of anti-American, socialists, communists, who were taking over the schools and colleges 90 years ago. 90 years... do you realize what can be accomplished in 90 years? Look at what Obama has done in three. Couldn't have happened without our allowing the last ninety.

How about the post that showed that this 'early' Cassandra, was at the very least, 60 years late to the party? This hasn't been going on since only the 1960's, 50 years ago, not even 90 years ago, it's been creeping into our national soul, through our children, for over 150 years.

If you aren't deprogramming and correcting your kids, you'd better get them out of 'school' - if you don't, don't you dare come to me in a few years and tell me about how stunned you were to hear that your kids are full of anti-American, anti-Western ideas.

Don't. you. dare.


Donna Harris said...

Yup. This is another reason why I have taken full and complete charge of educating my children.

If anyone's going to brainwash them, it's darn well going to be me.

Besides, how can I possibly do any worse?

Carl Maertz said...

This is clearly a major concern that isn't often brought up in the mainstream, the results of which show up all too often in my college classroom. I recently found myself coaching one debate team in my class. Why you might ask? Was it because I liked my students on that team more or was blatantly taking sides? NO. It was because the team consisted solely of Chinese students whose debate skills in English were limited and our judges couldn't speak Mandarin. It wasn't supposed to be about verbal acuity at all, so I took their side to level the field on verbal skill. The surprising part is that they all chose to debate the side that U.S. CEOs were NOT generally overpaid. That is, all the U.S. and other students chose the overpaid side to debate, all for reasons related to "social justice" concerns, as I discerned on follow-up. Just thought it was interesting that the Chinese students seemed to be far less bothered by income inequality.

I do believe that there is a possibility to deprogram versus the larger collectivist brainwash in the college classroom (i.e., it is still possible to reach students even much later than elementary school; we know a lot about brain plasticity that would support this) and would love to get your thoughts in this regard as a philosophy expert. I think more about the psychological aspects of educational indoctrination as a professor in the management department at SLU. If you would enjoy a lively exchange, please email me at Thanks for your blog.

mushroom said...

This is slightly off-topic, but there seems to me nothing more oxymoronic -- or maybe just moronic, than public employee unions.

Unions were created to give employees leverage against the power of the employers -- generally large employers viewed as oppressive and exploitative. There was probably at some point in history some validity to this movement.

By the time I had any exposure to union labor it had become a vehicle of political power that enriched the leadership and enabled the shiftless and unproductive membership.

Enter public employee unions. Is there anybody willing to argue that teachers are being exploited by an oppressive system? Well, actually they are, but it's the NEA thugs doing the oppressing.

Van Harvey said...

Carl said “The surprising part is that they all chose to debate the side that U.S. CEOs were NOT generally overpaid. That is, all the U.S. and other students chose the overpaid side to debate, all for reasons related to "social justice" concerns, as I discerned on follow-up. Just thought it was interesting that the Chinese students seemed to be far less bothered by income inequality.”

Definitely interesting… sure wish I could say it was surprising… but Chinese kids are raised… if not with the ideal of the free market, at least with the idea that getting ahead is something to be sought, whereas ours are raised, truly from pre-school, with the idea that business, especially Big business, is inherently bad.

“I do believe that there is a possibility to deprogram versus the larger collectivist brainwash in the college classroom (i.e., it is still possible to reach students even much later than elementary school;”

Oh I agree as well, I suspect that the key is to get to the trunk of the tree of their ideas and assumptions, and keep the questioning of it continually before them.

Most of modernist thought is sold from the point of view of ‘satisfying your pleasure, your desires, whims, comforts… fun!’ and that no one should deprive you of that. It is all driven from, and supported from, the outside – by external things and by external approval… but it is sold on the thought that ‘You want and deserve this!’.

The Achilles heel, I think, is that with every new thing they are sold on as being entitled to, one more Right, or portion of one, they are deprived of.

If their thoughts can be directed to the central question of who it is that has a Right to live your life… You, or society? Who makes the choices involved in living your own life – you or society? Who decides what you are, and are not, entitled to?, and so on… those are the questions which lead internally, which lead to questions of True and False, Right and Wrong, how they questions are to be evaluated, proven and accepted, and to the idea of Individual Rights, and finally how they are to be secured, which leads to Property Rights and objective law.

Some people it suddenly ‘clicks’ with (the playwright David Mamet describes in The Secret Knowledge, how such considerations regarding things he’d never really thought about, but accepted the leftist point of view on, began to dissolve before his eyes as he began to notice how he actually behaved, and expected others to behave towards him, and as did they – Very respectfully of implicit Property Rights… even though explicitly he, and everyone around him, ridiculed such thoughts.

Once the thought was seriously considered, everything else quickly fell away… and he was not young at all, late 40’s or 50’s I think.

The trick is to get someone to actually think, not just manipulate ‘thought objects’ as unquestioned givens, but to think them through… heh, ‘the Truth shall set you free’.

Yes I’d be very interested in discussing it further, I should correct you though, I’m much more a Philosophy Enthusiast, than an expert, but if that’s ok with you, I’d be thrilled to pursue it.

I’ll copy this to your email.

Van Harvey said...

Mushroom said "Is there anybody willing to argue that teachers are being exploited by an oppressive system? Well, actually they are, but it's the NEA thugs doing the oppressing."

I finally remembered where I'd seen this link, I'd posted in on my facebook page a while back:

Remember the Wisconsin Hysteria over Gov. Walker "killing union healthcare!"? Well... let me put on my surprised face, and pass this on (H/T April Womack):

"It's going to save us about $690,000 in 2011-2012," says Schilling. Insurance costs that had been about $2.5 million a year will now be around $1.8 million. What union leaders said would be a catastrophe will in fact be a boon to teachers and students.
It's not hard to see why union officials hate the new law so much. It not only breaks up cherished and lucrative union monopolies like high-cost health insurance; it also threatens to break through the union-built wall between teachers and administrators and allow the two sides to work together more closely. The old union go-betweens, who controlled what their members could and could not hear, will be left aside."
Wisconsin schools buck union to cut health costs.

Matthew C Smallwood said...

But the age of chivalry is gone. That of sophisters, economists, and calculators has succeeded; and the glory of Europe is extinguished forever. - Edmund Burke

"As a sharpening of wits, controversy is often, indeed, of mutual advantage, in order to correct one’s thoughts and awaken new views. But in learning and in mental power both disputants must be tolerably equal: If one of them lacks learning, he will fail to understand the other, as he is not on the same level with his antagonist. If he lacks mental power, he will be embittered, and led into dishonest tricks, and end by being rude.

The only safe rule, therefore, is that which Aristotle mentions in the last chapter of his Topica: not to dispute with the first person you meet, but only with those of your acquaintance of whom you know that they possess sufficient intelligence and self-respect not to advance absurdities; to appeal to reason and not to authority, and to listen to reason and yield to it; and, finally, to cherish truth, to be willing to accept reason even from an opponent, and to be just enough to bear being proved to be in the wrong, should truth lie with him. From this it follows that scarcely one man in a hundred is worth your disputing with him. You may let the remainder say what they please, for every one is at liberty to be a fool — desipere est jus gentium. Remember what Voltaire says: La paix vaut encore mieux que la verite ["Peace is worth more than the truth"]. Remember also an Arabian proverb which tells us that on the tree of silence there hangs its fruit, which is peace.

~ Arthur Schopenhauer

When you fight demons and monsters, you need weapons forged of silver and enchanted with runes. What did Gandalf say to the Balrog?

Ferny Reyes said...

You know, I was browsing for myself and for some reason, I showed up on your blog.

I enjoyed your analysis of our discussion, though I feel like you misread a fair bit of it.

More importantly though, you definitely did misread my post about cultural literacy. Is it that hard to believe that a college freshmen from the Rio Grande Valley was initially baffled by Western philosophy, particularly given how dense it can be to read?

Anyway, if it makes you feel better, I've been allowed to guide the World History curriculum in the district and there is a fair bit of Western philosophy which has been taught. Before I got to the district, none was taught in WH.

I actually like the Western philosophers now and have since about sophomore year of college, but thanks for the uncharitable reading!

Van Harvey said...

Ferny said "...Is it that hard to believe that a college freshmen from the Rio Grande Valley was initially baffled by Western philosophy, particularly given how dense it can be to read?"

Not at all, and had you put it that way, I don't think I'd have had any problem with it at all, and some sympathy. But what you said at the time was "...the challenge of teaching students to enter a world of white cultural power...", which is a very different thing, and, IMHO, antithetical to Philosophy as such.

" I feel like you misread a fair bit of it. " That's certainly possible, if there's something in particular you'd like to point out, I'm all ears.

And especially regarding how your ideas have changed since, I'd be very interested in hearing. I remember our discussion, and you were very straightforward with what you had to say, which is always appreciated, not to mention rare.

"but thanks for the uncharitable reading!"

;-) I don't seek a charitable or uncharitable reading of anyone, only a better understanding of it. If I've got it wrong, or if you've developed past that (if that perspective fits), I'd love to hear and discuss it further.