We take a moment of a Point of Personal Privilege today. But I think it's more than worthwhile on its own merits.
I've mentioned here having a cousin, Andy Elisburg (that branch of the family changed the spelling for a reason too long to go into) who is the General Manager and Senior Vice President of the Miami Heat basketball team in the NBA. Well, a week ago, on May 13, he was given an honorary doctorate from St. Thomas University, and I thought his commencement address was very well-done. Interesting, thoughtful, good stories, some nice quips and an extremely proper length. So, granting myself cousin's rights, here it is.
The introduction by the school president David Armstrong is sort of rushed, I think, although the background material is good and worth hearing. Andy's speech starts around the 3:30 mark, and only runs about 7-1/2 minutes.
By the way, Andy got the tall genes in the family. That is an especially good thing when you end up making a career in professional basketball.
A few things stood out for me. I liked the line about “how that day not only changed my life, but the person I became. That is what an education can do for you.” It looked at education from an uncommon perspective, that it doesn’t just make you smarter and learn things…but changes who you are. We so often hear, “Why do I have to learn arithmetic or history, I’ll never use it,” and this – in one simple phrase – explains that education is about much more than that. What you learn and the process itself affect who you are and who you will become.
But my favorite part was about how there is a catch, because there’s always a catch. “Doing something you Love is not a substitute for…” [fill in the blank]. It always bugs me when I hear “Follow your bliss” without the second part of the concept. Yes, absolutely, do something you love…but understand that you must still work at that.
By the way, his advice at starting at the bottom for little pay (which I thoroughly agree with – among other things, as you go up the ladder, you learn how to do all the grunt things that most of those at the top never had to know, and it makes you more valuable) is somewhat similar to advice Mark Twain gave –
It wasn’t a joke quip, but a serious response he wrote in a letter to someone. The short version was to offer your services for free where you wanted to work. Work very hard, become invaluable. And do that for a limited period of time, at which point you tell your employer you’re ready to move on. Because you’ve done such a good job, other businesses will have come in contact with you and want you to work for them – and your company will not want to lose you. And you’ll get good offers of pay to do what you love doing. Obviously, Twain wrote this at a very different time from today, but the basic concept holds: work at what you want to do, and don’t worry about the starting pay. If you work hard and do a great job, it will be recognized and rewarded.
Anyway, again, very good speech. And a wonderful honor.
A parent has pulled her pre-school child out of school after a video surfaced of the teacher leading her 4-5 year-olds in an anti-Biden chant.
On the video, the teacher asks the little children, “Who’s our president?” When they all answer together, “Biden,” the teacher then asks them, “What do we want to do with him?” And in unison the pre-schoolers yell back, “We want him out!”
And just to be sure to little kids learned their lesson for the day, the teacher repeats the question and gets the same answer, only yelled back even louder.
The mother became aware of this when she picked up her child. "The first thing she said to me when I picked her up was 'We want him out,'" Christina McFadden said. "That was the great message she learned that day. Her first history lesson."
The school is a private religious-based institution, Turning Point Christian Church. Some great values there.
The video was originally posted on the school’s own messaging app (yes, really), until it was taken down. Some great values there.
Turning Point Christian Church is in Norco, California, which is in Southern California, about 25 miles east of Los Angeles in Riverside County.
And just to add a fun fact to it all, this all took place on Presidents Day!
Reports say that “The school has issued an apology.” However, the school’s idea of an apology differs from mine. I feel pretty confident in saying that it would get an “F” from the American Institute for Apologies that Nell Minow and I co-founded.
“Earlier today a video was posted that has since been deleted as it did not share our school and church philosophy of honoring and respecting authority including those in government position.
“We are sorry for any misunderstanding this could of (sic) created. With courtesy towards the families of our campus and the children in the classroom I am asking you to please not share with others or post the video on any social media platform,”
Personally, I don’t see the word or even the concept of an apology there. Mostly regret that it was found out and made public. And a desire to bury it. What they did say, though, was so weak that it suggests the school and church’s “philosophy” do, in fact, share the same sentiments as the video. Among other things, there’s no indication that the teacher wasn’t even reprimanded, or put on suspension, let alone fired. In fact, Ms. McFadden has said that the school told her the teacher would be allowed to keep teaching because she was “repentant and has learned from her mistake.” Hallelujah! She repented! (For all we know, what she learned was just not to send your video to 14 sets of parents.) And again, to be clear, there is no apology there at all. Furthermore, on the school’s website they don’t even have the statement (I won’t call it an “apology”) posted on the News section. It’s like it doesn’t exist. They just want to bury it, even after it’s become national news.
Some great values, there.
Despite the request by Turning Point Christian School officials to hide the video, Ms. McFadden posted the video on both Facebook and TikTok. She said on her Facebook post that she thought was important other parents in the school were aware of what was being thought. She wrote that she wanted to bring awareness that “there are currently zero standards or guidelines of any kind that are being enforced in early childhood education classes. Zero.” And added that “This video was planned, practiced, recorded and the teacher was so comfortable with it she sent it to 14 sets of parents, She was so proud of this content what else did she teach my child this year?”
I’ve intentionally not embedded the video here, but if you want to see it – and read Christina McFadden’s full Facebook statement, you can find them here.
[UPDATE: The Facebook posting appears appears to have either been taken down or limited to select people. But you can see the video here.]
One wonders if other parents will pull their kids out, which – given that it is a private school – could have a major impact. Ms. McFadden’s child started in her new school in February. All the more reason the lack of a serious apology stands out so much. However, the school officials must think that this video comes pretty close to sharing the school and church’s philosophy, and that the parents will be fine with it, given that the teacher sent it to 14 sets up parents.
But then, if the school wrong about that, it could be a big problematic turning point for them…
Yes, I know there is a major news story breaking on Wednesday night. But I also know that I try not to wait until the late evening to start writing my articles for the next day. And in this case, I also already wrote my piece for today and scheduled it for posting. People for more expert than me can deal with the immediate news, and I'll get to it tomorrow, hopefully. But for now, we'll go with what I have -- and jump in at night to add this bit of explanation.
Fortunately, I think it has at least some relation. The Republican Party's 70-year War on Education builds a foundation of the party turning aside facts and reality and science and the "Main Stream Media" (meaning the actual news) which ultimately results in following fascist leaders who praise the autocratic leader of our longtime enemy who is attacking a democratic and freedom-loving nation. (Lest one think that is hyperbole, a Yahoo News/YouGov poll shows that 62% of Republicans and GOP-leading independents say Russian autocratic dictator Putin is “a stronger leader” than President Biden. Never mind that when you're a dictator you get to do pretty much whatever you want. Whereas in a democracy, if someone doesn't want to wear a facemask during an infectious pandemic, they have the "personal choice" ™ not to. Imagine trying that in China or Russia.) So, while this article below today isn't about the breaking news, it is part of the story that helps inform how one party is reacting to it all.
Which brings us to what I had prepared. And that is --
As I wrote yesterday, after reading an article in the Arizona Republic on two leading Republican politicians in the state making monumental tirades against teachers (among other things, calling the “education terrorists” and calling the teacher’s union “a scourge on our society”) it brought to mind two articles I wrote on the Huffington Post over a decade ago, about the Republican Party's long-running "War on Education." I posted the first one yesterday, and here is the second.
In fact, although written over a decade ago, it’s so up-to-date that (to my surprise) it even mentions Trump. And has a spectacularly prescient quote from the legendary historian Will Durant...written over 50 years ago. (Showing yet another reason why Will Durant is legendary.)
As I noted, the GOP War on Education hasn’t abated at all, with recent attacks on doctors and science, vaccines, pandemics, Climate Change, and the teaching of racism in America, along with banning books in school libraries, and GOP-backed state laws to sue schools for teaching things that make children uncomfortable, and more. Never mind that math makes children uncomfortable.
Revisiting these two articles from a decade ago makes spot-on clear that this is an ongoing issue from the Republican Party and will not be passing away anytime soon. (Keep in mind that when the article notes "60 years," remember that this was written more than a decade ago.) I decided to post both articles since, although they overlap one another, they also address slightly different points, so they serve as companion pieces, written eight months apart.
Here then is the second of the two, written December 1, 2011.
The War on Education
Several years ago, a conservative fellow I was talking with got into a lather about a criticism he often heard. “Why is it,” he asked, “that liberals always say that Republican politicians aren’t smart?”
I politely avoided the quick answer. Besides, it wouldn’t have explained things properly. The truth is that “Republican politicians” aren’t remotely stupid. And there are plenty of Democratic politicians who are head-banging idiots.
That doesn’t mean the ball field is equal. It’s not. And conservatives only have themselves to blame for the rules they wrote and have been playing by for over half-a-century:
You Can’t Trust Really Smart People, Education Gets in the Way of Common Sense, Science is the Enemy of Religious Faith, College is for Over-privileged Elitists, Facts Matter Less Than What You Believe.
Those are the familiar rules that Republicans created. But it’s only the starting point. Because after making the rules, they played the game.
When Adlai Stevenson ran again Dwight Eisenhower for president in 1952, the big criticism that Republicans launched against Stevenson was that he was “an egghead.” Meaning, he was much too smart to be trusted.
When John Kennedy was elected president in 1960, Republicans disparaged him for filling the White House with his “Harvard Mafia.” Meaning, there were all these people so smart they were scary dangerous.
After Richard Nixon was elected president in 1968, he put college students high on his Enemies List. Meaning…well, that one’s pretty obvious. Especially considering that troops were later sent onto the campus of Kent State, and four students were shot dead.
In 1988, the first George Bush campaigned for president as “the education president” – yet in a speech to service workers in Los Angeles explained it wasn’t necessary to go to college. This was an absolutely valid position, but spoke volumes from a leader supposedly promoting education.
When the second George Bush was president, he trumpeted his “No Child Left Behind” program – and then under-funded it, leaving those very schoolchildren far behind.
In 1996, the Republican Party platform stood for abolishing the Department of Education.
Last year, 111 Republican senators, congressman or national candidates were on record to abolish the Department of Education.
This only touches the surface of the ground-and-air war against education that conservatives have been playing. A relentless pounding against the importance of education, to reject facts, ignore history, dismiss science. To mistrust the news media. When information is diminished, it requires needing to rely on others. It demands having faith that others will lead you safely.
Indeed, it is no accident that conservative politicians court the religious right as their party’s base. Religion is centered on belief, on unquestioning faith. And that is the path to unquestioning faith in everything.
It is no wonder that New Yorker author Ron Suskind reported a Bush White House official ridiculing those who live in “the reality-based community.”
It is no wonder that the far right dismisses the science of global warming. And when science offers the breadth of cures from stem-cell research, we saw the far right fight the science.
And it is no wonder that conservatives cry to see Barack Obama’s report card, hoping the mere suggestion will demean his impressive education that includes being elected president of the Harvard Law Review and graduating magna cum laude from Harvard Law School.
If one doubts this, consider that you never heard Republicans demand to see George Bush’s college report card. Or called for the report cards of John McCain – who graduated 894 out of 899 students at the Naval Academy. Or insisted that Ronald Reagan release his report cards from Eureka College, where he did theatricals.
Yet Republicans made Ronald Reagan a conservative god. And it had zero to do with his education. And y’know, it didn’t even have as much to do with his conservative credentials, given how often he raised taxes, massively increased the national debt, signed a bill for amnesty to illegal immigrants and, as governor, signed an abortion rights bill. He might not be able to get past the primaries if he ran today.
Many conservatives don’t realize all these things about Mr. Reagan’s politics, but then…well, that’s the whole point of education, which teaches you how to learn such quaint things.
But when you are told for half-a-century that you can’t trust smart people and science, you end up with a party that lays itself open to a leadership vacuum.
And so, at one time or another, we get Donald Trump, Michelle Bachmann, Rick Perry, a pizza guy and even Sarah Palin leading the pack for the Republican nomination. And now Newt Gingrich, who, as Paul Krugman put it, is a “stupid man’s idea of what a smart person sounds like.”
No doubt, some will be up in arms by how supposedly-elitist this all is. Of course, wanting everyone to be as educated as possible is the exact opposite of elitism.
But then, calling others “education elitists” is one of those standard conservative rules to demean education. Which proves the point.
Which brings us back, finally, to my conservative acquaintance wondering why liberals always say that Republican politicians aren’t smart. The problem is that he was looking at the wrong thing. This isn’t a matter of who is smart. There will always be people much smarter than you, me and even the smart people. Reading about a Francis Bacon, Voltaire, Galileo, Denis Diderot or Benjamin Franklin can only make one feel breathtaking awe. Republicans and Democrats are both bright and foolish. What this is about is the intentional, driven campaign for 60 years of Republican Party leadership to intentionally downgrade the importance of education. And what results from that when a party does such a thing to itself.
In short, it’s simple: if you don’t want to be angered when your candidates are perceived as less than brilliant, then promote brilliance. Don’t make it your platform to abolish the Department of Education. Don’t claim that opinion supplants fact.
Ultimately, though, there is something far more important at issue than mere politics.
Will Durant, with his wife Ariel, wrote the legendary Story of Civilization. Eleven volumes, over 8,000 pages of discovery that remains today insightful, even-handed and remarkable. And after they finished, they put together The Lessons of History. Written over 40 years ago, in 1968, its perception is as fresh as any news headline you will read.
“Democracy is the most difficult of all forms of government, since it requires the widest spread of intelligence, and we forgot to make ourselves intelligent when we made ourselves sovereign. Education has spread, but intelligence is perpetually retarded by the fertility of the simple. A cynic remarked that ‘you mustn’t enthrone ignorance just because there is so much of it.’ However, ignorance is not long enthroned, for it lends itself to manipulation by the forces that mold public opinion. It may be true, as Lincoln supposed, that ‘you can’t fool all the people all the time,’ but you can fool enough of them to rule a large country.”
Yesterday, I saw a commentary from the Arizona Republic by EJ Montini about two leading Republican politicians in the state who brought out their inner-Trump and made monumental tirades against...teachers. (Yes, on teachers. Perhaps they thought that attacking puppies and goldfish would be going too far) One came from Republican State Sen. Michelle Ugenti-Rita who called teachers "educational terrorists." (Again, yes, you read that right.) The other, by Matt Salmon who is running for governor, called the teachers union "a scourge on our society." (As far as I can tell, Mr. Salmon believes that, as apparently "educational terrorists," woefully underpaid teachers dedicating their lives to the growth of children shouldn't have anyone defending their working conditions or rights.)
Mr. Montini begins his article pointedly" "Why do Arizona Republicans hate teachers? It's like they're having spitting contests with venom."
He notes that what the Republican-led Arizona Legislature has done to the state's public school system over the past several years is "wreck it." And he makes clear that that's not hyperbole -- pointing out that a recent national survey showed that "Arizona had the worst public education system in the nation." The worst - 50th.
If it's any consolation to Mr. Montini, the issue isn't why Arizona Republicans hate teachers. It's that the Republican Party in general, the party overall, seems to hate education.
And no, that's not hyperbole either. Let me explain.
When I read the commentary, I flashed back to a couple of articles I wrote on the Huffington Post over a decade ago, about the Republican Party's long-running "War on Education." I was a bit taken aback by how fresh the two articles each read, since they both touch on issues that we're exactly dealing with today, or some that are cousins. (In fact, to my great surprise because I didn't remember writing it, the second of the articles even references -- 11 years ago -- Trump. Not to mention it also has an incredibly prescient, fresh quote from historian Will Durant...written 50 years ago.)
The GOP War on Education has only gotten worse since then, as we've seen most recently in the attacks on doctors and science over things like Climate Change, vaccines, pandemics, and far-right violence and outrage at school board meetings over curriculums teaching that there was actually racism in America, and to ban books and GOP-backed state laws to ban book and sue schools for teaching things that make children uncomfortable. and more. (Fun fact: Math, history, English, and science tend to make most students uncomfortable. Recess is one of the few things at school that does not. Even lunch makes some kids uncomfortable at school when cliques form.)
I thought it would be good to revisit those articles to make bluntly clear that this is not a new phenomenon in the Republican Party that will pass - because it's been going on for at least 70 years. (When the article notes "60 years," remember that this was written more than a decade ago.) I wasn't sure which of the two I should re-post, since they overlap one another. But I realized that they address slightly different points, so they serve as companion pieces, written eight months apart. And so, I figured it best to post them both the next couple of days.
Here's the first, from March 29, 2011.
Every Child Left Behind
Several years ago, I had a realization: conservatives don't care about education.
It's a generalization, I admit. And sounds outlandish. Yet for the past 60 years, conservatives have made crystal clear their utter disdain for education. Hoping to convince others.
It began in 1952. When Dwight Eisenhower ran for president against Adlai Stevenson, the contemptuous attack Republicans made was that Stevenson was "an egghead." Someone who was really - smart. And you just can't trust those smart people.
In 1960, when Richard Nixon ran against John Kennedy, the Republican blast was that JFK was advised by his "Harvard Mafia." Smart people. So smart that they were dangerous. And you can't trust those smart people who go to good colleges.
When Richard Nixon was elected president in 1968, he hated those smart people who go to colleges so much that students made his Enemies List. And later his "get tough" policies on student dissent (including wanting the Secret Service to beat up protestors) resulted in Republican governor Jim Rhodes sending armed troops sent the campus of Kent State University -- and four "enemy" undergraduates were killed.
In 1988, George Bush claimed to be "the Education President" - yet on an campaign stop in Los Angeles told a rally of service employees that not everyone had to go to college. A valid sentiment, certainly, but for a candidate supposedly promoting education, it leaked his true feelings.
And in 2000, George W. Bush failed to fund his "No Child Left Behind" education program.
It's continued for 60 years, as conservatives have demeaned public education, pounding away at the national consciousness that learning for the masses is a bad thing to be scorned and mistrusted.
There's an understandable - and historic - reason for this, of course, because the less educated the public is, the more it relies on authority figures, rather than question anything. And the more that education is disdained, the less that inconvenient facts will be believed.
And so, instead, we get an attitude that challenges any assertion of education with a contemptuous, "So, you think you're better than the rest of us??" - conditioning people to wear with pride that they know less. In all other areas of life, we want the best. We want more riches, more success, to be faster, stronger, cooler - better at everything. Except, after 60 years of conservative pounding against education, not to be as smart as we and our children can be.
And while this conservative effort has been surreptitious over the past 60 years, it's finally released itself: open, unrelenting Republican attacks in Wisconsin against teachers - teachers, for goodness sake! - and a widespread Republican war against education.
In Florida, $3.3 billion has been cut from education over the next two years, almost 15% from the education budget to our children. While $1.6 billion has been given in corporate tax breaks.
Texas has proposed $9.8 billion in cuts in education assistance to school districts. (Bringing a loss of 100,000 jobs.)
Wisconsin cut $834 million from state aid to K-12 education over the next two years. That's 20% of the proposed cuts in the budget. And cuts to teacher pay and pensions.
We have always heard the praise that teaching is the most important job. That teachers are preparing our most precious resource, our children, for the future. How teachers are underpaid heroes. But from the other side of their hypocritical mouths, conservatives will slam teachers as lazy slackers with three months of vacation, overpaid plunderers of public pensions - and for 60 years desensitize the public for stripping away public education.
And now, they couldn't be any more clear:
Last Wednesday in Iowa, three prospective Republican presidential candidates bluntly stated their condemnation of public education at a home schooling rally.
"The public school system now is a propaganda machine," said Congressman Ron Paul (R-TX). "And they condition them to believe in so much which is totally un-American." Like, apparently, the Pledge of Allegiance.
"It is not up to a bureaucrat to decide what is best for your children," insisted Michele Bachmann (R-MN), who home-schooled five children. "We know best." Except about U.S. history. Home teacher Bachman recently placed the cornerstone of the American Revolution - Lexington and Concord - in the wrong state.
"That's all we want," said Herman Cain, a prominent businessman testing a GOP presidential run. "For government to get out of the way so we can educate ourselves and our children the old-fashioned way." Note: "the old-fashioned way" included one teacher for six grades in one room, few women and minorities, and teaching math with an abacus.
But it was left to the event's host, Justin LaVan, to explain plainly how so many conservatives truly see education. "Talking about our Creator. Our rights that came from our Creator, acknowledging that and giving Him the glory." Of course, that's why God invented church. For educating children to succeed in a global community where others are learning science, history and geography, it's a disaster. If prayer worked in school, every kid would get straight-A's.
And in the end, that disaster is what conservatives have long wanted from education. No need to learn anything. No public education. Just private schools and home schooling. Which is the end of an educated nation.
Private schools limit education to those who can afford it. Home schooling limits education to families where one parent can afford to stay home. While hoping that the parent completed high school.
This is known as every child left behind.
But for conservatives, that's okay. The wealthy and privileged will get their children a great education. And the rest of America? You're on your own.
Public education is what helped make America the envy of the world. A nation of well-informed citizens. Leading the way in the space race, technology, finance, and medical advances.
But conservatives? They want to go back to "the old fashioned way." Like the Dark Ages. Where kings and the aristocracy ruled. And you peasants, obey thy overlord.
Make no mistake, this is nothing new. The attack against education is the drug that conservatives have been pushing through history.
He's ba-ack. John Oliver has returned. And if you missed Last Week Tonight on Sunday, his main story was on the far-right reaction to the teaching of Critical Race Theory. The report was smart, funny, thoughtful and too often depressing.
Yeah, yeah, you don't like sports. Fine, whatever. This will take you 30 seconds. It's worth it. Be sure to turn the sound on.
Robert J. Elisberg is a political commentator, screenwriter, novelist, tech writer and also some other things that I just tend to keep forgetting.
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