Skip to comments.More On (or Moron) Teaching the Unteachable Red Staters
Posted on 12/02/2004 5:06:29 PM PST by CHARLITE
A few weeks ago, I wrote an article in response to a Jane Smiley missive posted on Slate.com (''The Unteachable Ignorance of the Red States'') diagnosing the results of the 2004 Presidential Election. It is something to admire that Ms. Smileys reaction was not apoplectic as such (I had to look that big word up in a thesaurus--and, while I was at it, I discovered, having forgotten what I was doing, that there simply is no synonym for thesaurus!) As some might remember, I took exception to her reading of the results. Specifically, to put it in terms that all Red-staters can understand: I didnt quite cotton to her calling Bush supporters dumb.
Since then, Ive gotten somewhat past my initial reaction to her argument that inbreeding has led to the general intelligence-quotient gap so lamented by Ms. Smiley between the Red-staters and the Blue-countiers (thats French, isnt it?) That is, my thought has developed somewhat beyond a loud belch followed by a ''Too bad we own all the guns!'' But not much.
No, Ive been thinking a bit about Ms. Smileys position and it has occurred to me that her very argument is flawed fundamentally on its own grounds.
Who, pray tell, has been in control of education in this country for the past forty years? Has it been the conservatives? Those same who are making noise only now that ''intelligent design'' (something that with evolution, according to Ms. Smiley, ''waved bye-bye'' to the Red-staters long ago) deserves a place in the curriculum alongside other just as extravagant ideas? No. Its been the liberals.
Ever since that famous article, ''Why Johnny Cant Read,'' was published in the 1960s the libs have had almost exclusive control of the education establishment in the United States. Never mind that such control was the furthering of a movement that began at least as early as the first or second decade of the 20th Century under the influence of the philosophy of John Dewey, and then was aided by the popularization of the work of Freud, Skinner, and Pavlov, and ended in viewing the human animal as a bundle of materialistic complexes who could be controlled if only its environment was perfected. In this sense, prison design and education have gone hand in hand in the last forty years--paint the walls the right colors and you manipulate the individual in any direction you wish.
Of course, either its a lie or its a false notion.
Ms. Smiley, it seems, needs to decide which.
That is, if Ms. Smileys thesis is correct--about the election and about human beings--then it is her very agenda that has failed. If she is either wrong about the agenda (which she has yet to admit) or about humans (which I predict she will never admit), then the failure is a mystery for the ages.
Or not. That is, when the assumption about human beings is that they are merely ''teachable,'' then the idea is that all that is good in humanity is the result of what some institution gives it. Its not a very old idea: humans are perfectible--all we need is the right circumstances and, given our ability to manipulate our reality, anything is possible. The liberals never stop to wonder why it is that each generation only ever produces a relative few individuals mysteriously gifted with the know-how to pass on to the rest of the plebes the means to happiness. It is enough for the libs to assume that just such a few will emerge, we will know them by their (bureaucratic) brilliance and they will lead the rest of us to the land of milk and honey.
But if this is true, is it really the liberal argument that they simply have not had enough time? After all, they lost the election. What happened? I mean, how long must this experiment go on? When will the scientist concede defeat for his hypothesis? How many must be ground up in the machine of liberal progress before the Ms. Smileys admit that its not just the method that counts? Liberals complain about too many highways and bad gas mileage and the greenhouse effect and all, but in the realm of ideas, apparently there is always room to add one more by-pass for the achievement of their goal.
Let me re-posit something that will make me seem seriously old-fashioned: we are creatures. We neither made ourselves nor the world in which we find ourselves. As creatures, we must come to admit that we are not only responsible for the things we say and do, we are responsible to a reality that escapes the ken (thats right, I wrote ''ken'') of our own making.
Let me re-posit one more thing: the reality in which we find ourselves speaks to us at every moment about who and what we really are. Ms. Smiley would have it that such a reality is an echo-chamber of Don Dellilian mirrors (mixed the metaphor on purpose, thank you very much) in which value is an ever receding Derridian horizon of our own voice: an honorific--an Alice-In-Wonderland nightmare that is the dream fabric of a salvation that we make for ourselves in the confusion of ''antipathies'' for ''antipodes,'' a politically correct world of make-believe in which up is down, down up, black white, right wrong. Our reality, according to Ms. Smiley, is one in which our choosing Maxwell House for marble shavings is the difference between breakfast and death.
In short, Ms. Smiley believes that in positing an idea we make it ''true.'' Unless, of course, in positing an idea we say that we believe it is true--which is the only way to be false.
In this way, Ms. Smiley can never be wrong and I am, of course, always wrong.
But thats okay. Ms. Smiley, with all due respect, to further confuse my allusions, I say with Huck Finn: Ill go to hell then.
About the Writer: Gregory Borse is assistant professor of English at Ivy Tech State College in Wabash, Indiana. Dr. Borse, a family man with "a beautiful wife and four beautiful children," enjoys writing, current events, media, politics, and disc golf. Gregory receives e-mail at firstname.lastname@example.org
We now routinely "lockdown" (formerly exclusively a term associated with incarceration) our palaces of public education.
MoveOn CurlsUp InCorner
And scores on standardized tests for both students and teachers are higher in the red states? or the blue states?
And so, it must apparently be the case that anyone who can't see the face of the Virgin Mother on a certain grilled cheese sandwich is also manifestly stupid.
It certainly couldn't have anything to do with the utter lack of respect shown by the average liberal genius, who would suppose that the Mother of Christ could find no better way to manifest herself than on the Waffle House blue plate special.
How sad it must be for those liberals stuck in an infantile rut, to observe that most of the world has left them behind. I remember how dumb I thought grown ups were, when I was 6.
I still interview folks like that occasionally, but never hire them. I imagine it is because a person who has reached that age and still can't apply the concepts of logic, cause-effect and basic economics...is just too smart to work for me.
Sir, you are correct: Our prisons are becoming schools and our schools are becoming prisons!
Sort of goes hand-in-hand with those airport terminal strip searches, doesn't it?
Most convicted felons feel "right at home" flying these days..
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