Sunday, November 15, 2009

Life in an American Fourth Grade: Teaching Kids to "Respect Other Views" by Making Them Not Have Any of Their Own

[Please subscribe for news/analysis of the Middle East, U.S. foreign policy, and reports from the fourth grade]

By Barry Rubin

First came the reading list of four books: one about an African-American, one on an Asian- or Hispanic-American, one on a Native American, and one--amazingly enough--a free choice.

Then came the first book read in class on an African-American runner.

By the way, it should be understood that all these readings are not about a group of youngsters from all races, religions, and creeds, playing together while getting along but rather a focus on minorities in isolation rather than as part of the whole big society.

And next came the second book read in class, portraying the “horrors” of Japanese internment in the United States during World War Two.

By this point, my 10-year-old son piped up that he thought internment was necessary as a war-time measure. Whether or not this position is "correct," it is certainly one that wasn't going to be made otherwise in that classroom.

The teacher gave my son’s remark, in conversation with my wife, as an indication that he was opinionated and didn’t listen to other views. Naturally, of course, precisely the same thing can be said of the teacher. Different views weren't permitted in the class. Indeed, when he gave another opinion the opinionated teacher shut him up fast. Remember that these students had never been presented with two points of view but only one, over and over again.

No commemoration of September 11 but three days on manmade global warming. Even if the latter is more likely true, no alternative point of view or reservations were expressed.

The teacher explained later to my wife that when she went to school she was taught that the Indians were “bad” but now she understands things from the Indians, I mean Native Americans, view point. When applied to history and international affairs, this is clearly the dominant orientation today: America is always in the wrong

But dimwitted guardians of our children don’t understand the most basic concept of democracy and free speech. If at one point, teaching portrayed Native Americans as “bad” and the U.S. government, cavalry, and white settlers as “good,” the best solution is not simply to reverse this and to teach that Native Americans are “good,” and the United States, cavalry, and white settlers were “bad.”

One-dimensional propaganda is no proper substitute for one-dimensional propaganda. It would be far more beneficial for students to be taught how to think, that not everything is black and white, that some balance must be found. Ironically, all those people who once touted such slogans as “challenge authority” are now asserting authority more vigorously than those they displaced. Their new approach is: repeat what I say or you are opinionated and closed to alternative ideas

In addition, they must develop their own point of view. All "other" and no self makes Jack a dull boy. It deprives native-born Americans of an ego, to use Sigmund Freud's term, and just makes them a reflection of their treatment of others, which is presented universally as not good.

In this class at least, all of the "African-" and "Asian" and "Hispanic" American students are immigrants so they don't know much about America or its achievements or the concept of the melting pot. They aren't going to learn it here.  What they will learn is that the United States is a series of disunited set of communal states, semi-separate communities--a sort of confederation--and that the whites in particular, and the Americans in general, have treated everybody pretty badly.

Of course, the goal, whether conscious or not, is precisely to teach little kids that their country is bad and that others—especially its enemies—are in the right. The goal is not to teach children to be more open to alternative explanations but to teach them that there is only one right answer. And, usually, it isn’t the one that arises from their own group’s history and interests.

Of course, it is proper to teach about all the different groups that went up to make America. But not just the non-Caucasian ones, not to the exclusion of the majority group, not only in the context of these other sectors being apart from the whole. The old slogan of racism in the form of segregation was "separate but equal," that;s the new "progressive" slogan, too, unless one considers it to be--with some reason--separate and superior.

Ironically, all those people who once touted such slogans as “challenge authority” are now asserting authority more vigorously than those they displaced.

“Multiculturalism is an excuse for anti-intellectualism,” one veteran high school teacher told me, “Some of it was a necessary corrective in the 1970s and 1980s but it has gone way overboard.”

And that’s quite true: you don’t have to think about the rights and wrongs or messy details of the issue (all that scalping and murder of not only settler civilians but also members of other tribes). You simply side with the prefabricated victim group in question. The “oppressor” is always the same, of course.

I also noted a funny thing about this version of Political Correctness. The women’s issue has virtually disapeared. I speculate that women as a victim group is a problem for those with a political agenda. Women divide up roughly along the same political lines as men. They are not reliable “bloc voters”; the issue does not lend itself to bashing American society. Perhaps too much obvious progress has been made.

What the PC commissars want is to focus on groups that can fit entirely into their victim and anti-American framework. Consider the idea of having a story read about a woman in some Muslim woman living in the Middle East or even United States who is oppressed. That would be a definite no-no.

Barry Rubin is director of the Global Research in International Affairs (GLORIA) Center and editor of the Middle East Review of International Affairs (MERIA) Journal. His latest books are The Israel-Arab Reader (seventh edition), The Long War for Freedom: The Arab Struggle for Democracy in the Middle East (Wiley), and The Truth About Syria (Palgrave-Macmillan). To read and subscribe to MERIA, GLORIA articles, or to order books. To see or subscribe to his blog, Rubin Reports.

No comments:

Post a Comment

Note: Only a member of this blog may post a comment.