When you attack the tax-funded compulsory school system, you are attacking the single most important tool of the modern State. It is America’s only established church. The State uses this church to suppress dissent, preferably before dissent becomes public.
I published an article, “Whining Parents,” about a group of parents in Georgia whose children’s study habits had been undermined by the local public schools. Almost immediately, I received a letter from a typically naïve woman, who criticized me for being too critical of the parents who had gone on-line to criticize the Gwinnett County, Georgia, middle schools. I responded in a follow-up article, “Destroying Your Child to Save a Buck.”
It was clear to me from the beginning that she was not a knee-jerk defender of compulsory-attendance, tax-funded schools. Her problem was her misunderstanding regarding where moral responsibility lies for the education of children: with parents.
A few hours after I received the first letter, I received a very different kind of letter.
Subject: Whining parents? Whining author!
Dear Mr. North:
I agree that parents whine too much. But for once, they are whining for the right reasons in Gwinnett County.
Not ALL public education institutions are run like that; some actually hold students accountable for their work, and grade them on their efforts. I don’t always agree with grades, but they are a motivator. I teach high school; I should know.
Articles like yours merely paint all teachers as lazy and myopic, and all tax-funded schools as evil. How shortsighted. You simply fuel the already-rampant negativity toward schools. It’s a very ignorant approach. Maybe you should come teach in a public school for a year; that might sober you up to harsh reality a bit.
The problem is not that public schools are tax-funded, it’s that they are UNDERFUNDED. The government pumps many more billions into the war machine than it does into the education machine. Society, it seems, would prefer spending more bucks on bombing babies than on nurturing them.
Now, here was the real thing. Here was someone who is part of the system. Here is a person who has had formal education and has been certified to train students at taxpayers’ expense. She teaches in the Marietta, Georgia city school system. She also included this in a long file at the bottom of her letter:
I don’t blame Bush for being an idiot and an asshole; I blame 59 million voters for being idiots and assholes.
Not only is she a high school teacher, she is evidently also both an amateur psychologist and part-time proctologist.
Her statement appears to be part of what is known as a signature file: words that are automatically appended to every email a person sends out. Anyone who uses a signature file to attach such language as hers to every outbound email is not regularly communicating outside of a small circle of ideologically in-bred people.
Also included in this long file was her email address: [name]@marietta-city.k12.ga.us. She makes it clear that she is an employee in good standing. This, she presumably imagines, adds credibility to her statements regarding those who voted for Bush. It puts them in their place. It shows them who is in charge. The red-map voters in Marietta are filling her wallet with green. (This, I must admit, really is idiotic. It is like voluntarily digging your own grave to help your executioner save money.)
She also pointed out to me that she is a published author. I checked. She is indeed a published author. Here is what her self-description states at the bottom of one of her articles:
[The author] publishes Spew, a ‘zine of socio-political rants, makes desperate attempts at high school pedagogy, and is a passionate but peeved homeless activist. She deplores American fascism but adores American liberalism. Her hobbies include doing nothing, snoring, and listening to the Cure — all day, all the time.
Spew. I must admit, I had not heard of this publication before. Seeing a title like that, a reader has no problem in identifying its degree of academic seriousness.
If you click through and read her article, “Conservative Christians: Oxymorons,” you will discover that the lady is also a budding theologian when she isn’t snoring. She offers this unique theological insight:
Message to conservative “Christians”: Jesus would love fags. Indeed, he probably was one, seeing how he was such a sensitive male and all.
I have written a pair of lengthy commentaries, one on the Gospel of Matthew and the other on the Gospel of Luke. Somehow, I failed to notice this aspect of Jesus’ ministry. Furthermore, as a Ph.D. in history, I have not come across scholarly articles in peer-reviewed historical journals that indicate that Jesus “probably” was a “fag.” Her article fails to cite any academic sources for this remarkable insight. But, then again, she was not writing for a peer-reviewed journal. Still, it makes me wonder what kind of information is imparted in her classroom.
It occurs to me that an on-line article asserting that Jesus “probably” was a “fag” is not the best way to impress a school board in the South, even in the Atlanta suburbs. This sort of thing calls into question the basic competence of a school district’s ability to screen its teaching staff, apart from careful monitoring and continual review by the local school board. It raises that embarrassing question: “What’s going on around here?” And this one: “How long has this been going on around here?”
If asked about this, she may shrug off her “Jesus, the probable fag” assertion as a form of satire. If either the school district’s administrators or the local school board buys that explanation, then I have a bridge in Brooklyn that I can get for them at a really good price.
I don’t speak for the “fags,” but I am confident that Christians would not find her “satire” even mildly amusing. I will say this much, however: she surely does provide provocative sermon material. Any theologically conservative pastor in Marietta, Georgia who cannot get at least one lively sermon out of this incident is in the wrong line of work.
This much is clear: Christians in the city of Marietta who keep voting “yes” on every school bond issue had better understand what this ever-increasing school district debt is buying for their children. Outraged parents can write letters and even show up at school board meetings, but the system is not going to change even marginally until its funding is cut and the bond issues stop passing. If voters reward this sort of thing with more money, they are going to get more of the same. Or worse.
If you go to the website of the Marietta schools, www.marietta-city.k12.ga.us, you get a message from the district superintendent. You also get a slogan: “The difference is excellence.” What is excellence? According to Superintendent Barnett, “It’s the never-ending quest to find the best people and resources to teach the children of Marietta.”
If performance always matched slogans, we would see more Hudsons on the road.
EVERYONE ELSE IS A FASCIST!
For Leftists, the word “fascist” is an all-purpose smear word: six decades after Mussolini was suspended by his heels.
My critic insists that I am a neocon and a fascist, too. Why? Because I oppose the use of taxes to fund education. This fact is sufficient to mark me forever in the eyes of this tax-funded Leftist teacher.
The common, run-of-the-mill Leftist cannot make even simple intellectual distinctions among important contemporary political movements. For a standard-variety Leftist, anyone to the right of Teddy Kennedy is a fascist. The label is automatic. I have heard this accusation for over 45 years. It is slander, and it is universal.
It does not work both ways. Conservatives are not allowed to call Leftists “Communists.”
I have called my critic a socialist. She is upset. She writes: “You can brand me a socialist if you want. That’s your narrow, defensive perspective. A more appropriate label, if you must label me (and you will), is social democrat.”
That sounds innocuous, but only if you know nothing of European political history. The Wikipedia encyclopedia says:
Social democracy is a political ideology emerging in the late 19th and early 20th centuries from supporters of Marxism who believed that the transition to a socialist society could be achieved through democratic evolutionary rather than revolutionary means. It emphasizes a program of gradual legislative reform of the capitalist system in order to make it more equitable, usually with the goal of a socialist society as a theoretical endpoint.
“Social democracy” has for over a century been a code phrase for “socialism.” But this public school teacher seems unaware of the connection, or else imagines that I am.
I am not saying that there are no people who believe in the tenets of fascism: pro-war, pro-government regulation, pro-bureaucracy. But they are on the Left as often as they are on the Right. This is not how Leftists see things.
Leftists get through college, yet their idea of intellectual analysis is to accuse every opponent of being a fascist. If challenged on a written examination to define the term by summarizing the history and the main ideas of Italian fascism, most of them would flunk. They are true knee-jerk thinkers.
They are also on the payrolls of the public schools. They have been put in charge of teaching children how to think. Yet they have lost this crucial skill over the years.
THE HIDDEN COSTS OF A FREE RIDE
One of the costs of being a Leftist is that your side controls the mainstream media, the tax-funded schools, and the textbook companies. The Left has had a free ride at taxpayers’ expense. This has gone on for two generations. Almost everything they have read has reinforced their opinions because they mainly read each other.
In contrast, we on the Right had to go through their schools, read their textbooks, and suffer their TV shows and movies. Those of us who survived this ordeal got tougher.
From high school until the rest home, the Leftists who control American education have had a free ride at taxpayers’ expense. Now this is changing. The Web is undermining their monopoly over the flow of information. The Left bet the farm on the mainstream media and federal regulatory control over the airwaves. That investment is going bust, fast. They do not know what to do. They have never been challenged in a public forum. They do not know how to respond. They do not know how to argue.
They have become intellectual couch potatoes. Their idea of an intellectual powerhouse is Bill Moyers, who was Lyndon Johnson’s press secretary.
In religion, a similar free ride led to the current contraction of the mainline Protestant denominations. The best book on this is The Churching of America by Finke and Stark. They show how the Federal Council of Churches (FCC 1) relied on the Federal Communications Commission (FCC 2) to create a cozy little radio monopoly. The FCC 2 mandated that licensed broadcasters devote time on Sunday to religious shows. The FCC 2 for decades authorized only FCC 1-approved broadcasts: Harry Emerson Fosdick and other liberal preachers. This plan went to the nether regions when the FCC 2 decided that paid air time would fulfill the religious broadcasting requirement. Fundamentalist preachers then bought up all of the available air time. Theological liberals refused to pay to promote their agenda. This is why there has not been a prominent liberal preacher on radio or television for over half a century.
Liberals seek to pursue their various agendas with other people’s money. They fall flat when they must finance their agendas with their own money. The free ride is now catching up with the Left. They have become intellectually flabby. Most of them cannot effectively defend their own positions. They do not have the sharpness that comes from years of debate and outsider status. They grew up, intellectually spoon-fed, on public school textbooks and tax-funded classroom discussions. Whether on radio, or on the Web, or in their little magazines with shrinking subscriber bases, they cannot compete. Only their access to tax revenues keeps them going.
It works both ways. The level of public discourse among conservatives is falling rapidly. This is the price of success. But the Right is still on the defensive in education. The tax-funded education system still offers a challenge: how to create home school materials and day school materials that parents, who are products of the tax-funded school system, are willing to pay for. This is not easy.
As the Left-run universities get more and more out of touch with reality, and as the Left-run public high schools decline in quality because of their guaranteed funding, Leftists are less able to compete where it counts: in what I call the upstream media. They are losing the battle for the best and the brightest students. This is unlikely to change.
The Right will get stronger. This is the great benefit of competition. The Left will get weaker. This is the great curse of tax funding.
May 28, 2005
Copyright © 2005 LewRockwell.com