there is nothing sadder than american progressivism. first of all, it was never coherent: the only plan was to help people by subordinating them. all day every day for what's coming up on centuries now, the left gets a bunch of experts together to tell us how to fix...black people. it has not changed in decades; there are no ideas, no imagination, just autistic repetition. de blasio is going back to the high-rise housing project. the first time around, it was a straight-up reservation system, and the indian reservation was also a progressive program for the uplifting of a backward race riddled with pathologies. the basic model of the 'great' 'society' was the internment camp, built by demolishing actual streets, houses and communities. in this case it was the imposition of a completely state-dominated concrete environment designed by evil cretins, i.e. experts: just the sort of people who rise in our meritocracy. then you wondered why the residents tore the place up. let's see...it must be their pathologies! we need professors to tell us how to fix them again. and again. and...
or how about some forced residential integration? in both these cases, allow me to point out that community cannot be imposed on people through sheer prescription, backed by force or even incentive. perhaps there is a bit of energy on the left just now. i am just begging y'all not to use this energy to run backwards to the same old disasters. also i am saying this to you straight up: you don't know how people do live, and you don't know how people ought to live, and the only decent situation is one in which people decide that for themselves, not where harvard professors decide it for them. the first datum for any actual movement toward social justice has just got to be this: people's autonomy must be respected. it's their account to themselves of themselves that matters; to think anything else is just to perpetuate the privilege to which you purport to be opposed: your own privilege, bill de blasio; your own, rahm emanuel.
daniel patrick moynihan, let's say, was what we might term an internal colonialist, bwana in a pith helmet on safari to uplift the dark continent within and bring to it the blessings of civilization.
probably folks like those think that they have devoted their careers to remediating the hierarchy they are themselves perched atop, and they propose to remove it specifically by its ever-more thorough exercise. they are enjoying it, claiming it, and imposing it. and simultaneously they are identifying it as the problem they're trying to fix. spend the next few generations in withering self-examination instead of other-examination, alright?
black people and poor people or trailer trash or whomever you're thinking of: they are far more qualified than robert reich to decide how they should live, and unlike robert reich they have a right to. i'm serious: there is no ph.d. that will help you know how people should live; there are no ethical qualifications, no certifications, no expertise except living your life with other people in your place. for example, cass sunstein prescribes the nudge, but the whole thing just effortlessly assumes that people like cass sunstein understand what each of us should be nudged toward. there are no experts on that but each of us. and you should contemplate the extreme arrogance of people who simply take it as a given that they know how everyone should live. that's an ethical failure, a golden rule violation. but it also just shows the breathtaking incomprehension, self-regard, and unconscious evil of the privileged, and helps reproduce the structure of that privilege generation after generation. and the program is supposed to be egalitarian. no doubt they're off rocking davos on behalf of the oppressed.
people like reich and sunstein exemplify the ways class and race are articulated or actually made now: they move back and forth from academia to think-tank to state, through the archipelago of social-science expertise, epistemic prestige, and real power. (and i am telling you that even rahm and bill are future distinguished professors at the kennedy school of government or whatever as they wait to cycle into the cabinet.) but reich and sunstein, for example, take on the neutral voice of the social scientist and they are chock full of statistics. this voice is an extremely central example of the 'unmarked' position of privilege: they do not implicate themselves in their advocacy. but the social sciences - overlapping with a medical model of pathologies and also a criminal-justice discourse - have been the nexus of racial and class construction since the early twentieth century. (before that they measured your skull and tried to fit your people into the sequence of evolution: somewhere between slug slime and nature's crowning achievement rutherford b. hayes.)
all the state-implemented racial transformations, each layer of new welfare and housing programs, each new war on poverty and discrimination, has been justified by the social sciences. many have been unalloyed disasters, but expertise always gets it right this time, by its own account.
the thing about expertise, especially the (pseudo-)scientific variety: you ought to be silent before it: you have to bow to the facts; the claim is to a special power to declare what is real. and yet the categories of the statistical tables just recirculate and reinforce the wretchedly problematic race and class taxonomies, and the whole thing presupposes that we have a right to gather information on them so we can address their problems: their problems as named by us. the power dynamics are completely inbuilt, the numbers a kind of spectral emanation of the a priori stance and categories. and a long century of this has left us fundamentally untransformed. these hierarchies are more extreme and intransigent than when y'all started. how have democratic administrations done at ameliorating income inequalities, for example? i will say again: that's because the solutions and their rhetorics are imposed by direct exercises of domination by the very people who are the problem, from the very top of the power hierarchy. that just is not going to have liberating effects: not last time or the time before that and not next time.
[note to post-marxists: guess what? political hierarchies and hierarchies of knowledge are as real as economic hierarchies, and in general they coincide. it is not necessary for robert reich to be the richest man in the bay area for him to be a person of tremendous privilege in more or less every dimension.]
how are we going to get better on race and class and so on? start by giving up. you have no status that entitles you to re-locate people or re-educate them, to watch or cure or name them. until it's their own voices, not the experts and political authorities speaking on their behalf, it's all sheer cultural domination or even annihilation. let go. let people make their own lives.
i was at a faculty meeting today discussing a possibly wide-ranging change in our curriculum. one theme was how in the world to deal with, or as one of my colleagues put it, 'treat' the kids who are coming out of k-12 education. everyone nodded as people said things like, "they just want to be told what to do, all the time in every respect". "they think education is just jumping through hoops". "they have no intrinsic interest in the material; they don't even know what that would be like.' it was not me, believe it or not, who described k-12 education in this period as 'profoundly authoritarian'. 'they regard teachers as mechanical information-delivery systems.' 'when you really look at the common core, it's all designed to take the last shreds of autonomy from teachers'. and so on.
at one point, someone said, "well, i guess we all agree that these kids are being abused. the question is, what can we do to treat them or cure them of what they came in with, or of what our culture is now?"
you should really understand: this is a consensus in a faculty that is also more or less 100% left, people who to a person except me, might describe themselves as great proponents of public education, and who as a default position probably support most things the obama admin does. but look, we are all college teachers and there are certain things you just cannot see, every day. so what i wonder is: what in the world can be done about this? like universal surveillance - to which it is related in various ways - it flows on indifferently through democratic and republican adminstrations. well, both parties have deeply authoritarian basic orientations. and also, if you like, this approach is being driven by a particular economic vision, a particular version of technocratic capitalism, in which children are cogs. the personalities they are with some success attempting to manufacture cannot be and will not be citizens of a democracy, but of a squishy totalitarianism.
empathy varies inversely with power. i'd say that's something we all know by experience, though it's nice to have some evidence. perhaps you have actually dealt with high school principals, policepersons, judges, irs officials, very rich persons, or senators, for example. i'd explain it as follows: people who seek power are morally worse, on average, than those who do not (this is true more or less by definition, as though i said: people who try to accomplish evil are worse on average...), and sometimes people who seek power get it, while people who do not rarely do. and second, power makes you a worse person, which is actually the conclusion of the piece. now, if you do not draw anti-authoritarian, anti-hierarchical - indeed anarchist - conclusions from this, you should try. and what i would really recommend is that people stop lionizing the powerful, worshipping barack a la 2008 or clinton or gore or bill gates or whatever it may be. powerful people should be under continuous suspicion, should be regarded with continuous skepticism. the only real point has to be to hem them in, mitigate their disastrous effects, or tear them down. the human desire to be subordinated just puts us in the hands of the worst among us. that we want the exploitation, poverty, and rape that we receive from authorities, however, does not entail that the authorities aren't evil.
on the other hand, the piece does that silly brain thing, where they say that, though some people think that powerful people need others less and hence attend to their feelings less, the authors have a different hypothesis: 'we contend that when people experience power, their brains fundamentally change how sensitive they are to the actions of others.' now first of all, why aren't those alternative descriptions of the very same thing? and second, what the heck do you gain by retreating into the brain? it's just doing no work. 'my brain is making me less sensitive' or 'my brain is changing me': how much sense or content is there in claims like that? or maybe i am making my brain less sensitive. when my brain affects me (how surprising!), what is affecting what? this same let's say casual line of thought might identify my self with my brain, which would make it very strange indeed to say that my brain is changing me. is it supposed to be explanatory to say the x is the cause of x? but it does suggest that power and interactions with others in general can be reduced to internal brain states, which is just counter-productive. actual interactions of your brain and the rest of you with other people and the outside world are actually occuring. the problem is interpersonal, not intracranial. but if it were in your brain, power and its effects could possibly be treated with drugs or psycho-surgery, which would be good, and might keep us from having to open internment/re-education/labor camps for assistant principals after the revolution.
the common core is an extremely good political issue, or an extremely good reason why atomic weaponry should be available to every consumer, every parent, every teacher, and every child. dirtier the better. now, the rhetoric around the damn thing is egalitarian. it was written by the bill and melinda gates foundation, or in other words the egalitarians are turning your child's head over to the very richest man in america. why are they doing that? because egalitarians such as arne duncan and barack obama measure merit in cash money. indeed, the other purpose, besides the 18 billionth disingenuous attempt to equalize us all, is to crank up our capitalism so's we can compete with china. the picture is 'meritocratic' where merit means 'filled in the right little bubbles, so can work for microsoft'. you probably think this is progress!
ah, the common core. the thing richly justifies violent revolution, which i would definitely recommend if it cannot be blown up through electoral politics. now i realize that there's an emerging demographic progressivism, and that women, black people, latinos, and gay folk unanimously want to be personally subordinated by idiots. only white het guys don't want a personal overseer following them around and telling them what to do all day: a symptom of our privilege. on the other hand, slavishness is one possible result of being oppressed. who, they ask, will duct-tape my child to a chair and force her little hand to move, in unison with all the other little hands, as some numskull prescribes? you've got to think about the collective, not just the individual. if there was someone who could tell us all what to do all day, and with the guns, money, and internment facilities to make it stick, we would be as one. but perhaps somewhere there are non-masochists even in these groups and we can cobble together an anti-sadist alliance.
so, bill de blasio and the whole dem party is shifting to the issue of economic inequality. quite the urgent issue, not that it's atypical of any large state-dominated society in the history of the world. but i do not believe that what they are proposing - insofar as they are proposing anything - can have any effect on structural inequalities, and i suggest that this is as demonstrable as anything along these lines can be. so what do you suggest? more food stamps? longer-term unemployment benefits? do these things change people's basic social or economic status? (right, it is important that they might enable hungry people to eat!) going to try again or pretend to try again to equalize education across poor and wealthy communities? what in the world would make you think that this has any effect on the basic structural or relational situation? has the welfare state or compulsory public education redressed structural inequalities? i would like to see the evidence. i would point you toward a century of dicking around with education to no effect. giving poor people more benefits can slightly ameliorate their situation. but it does nothing to change the structure, and indeed i suggest that it freezes the situation into place, that it and also public education, for example, makes the basic structure chronic. public education has been a caste system and a reproducer of the class structure in the next generation since it was instituted. if you look squarely at the real history of these programs, i believe that's what you see. well, maybe you are going to do them better this time. no, you'd have to actually do something comepletely else.
we're in another wave of our babies vs the babies of singapore in a standardized test duel to the death. i cannot believe that twenty years later they are still thinking and talking like this. look one problem is that your kid might end up like tom friedman: a collage of buzzwords without a mind in his profoundly unpretty, hideously swollen head. i've done this so many times for so long that i can't even pause to make the goddamn arguments anymore. your picture of childhood is sick. it is abusive, enslaving. your picture of education is grotesquely false: there is no distinction on your position between knowledge and sheer idiocy. i actually have to try to teach the little mechanical minds that now emerge from american public education: all they want is to be told what to do: they want a guide to writing the essay sentence by sentence, including the actual opinions. (there are exceptions still, thank god.)
i have no idea why, but your whole thing is built on wacky economic nationalism: friedman is always like: wait til you don't understand the accent of your chinese boss. it might as well be: you don't want to be ruled by negroes or women, do you? if negroes or women do well, then 'we' do badly. if immigrants do well, then 'americans' do badly. it is the same argument, or the attempt is to pit us against them in order to drive your other agendae: your technocratic/surveillance/dependency state, e.g. the idea is that if the finns do well economically, then we do badly. you don't even understand your own capitalism. bizarrely, friedmans actually oppose globalization, or they oppose it insofar it doesn't have the current form: a world economic hierarchy with america at the top. or maybe that's just the rhetorical strategy (threaten you with the notion that foreigners are getting uppity or getting to be better than you, so you'll accept 24 hours a day of mechanical learning labor for your children), in which case we needn't worry about it at all. if friedman is coming to study your school in singapore, you obviously should not let him in: the whole program is he wants to steal your ideas in order to beat you: it's a zero-sum game for friedman, and the whole program is to keep all the money flowing toward here, and keep it from flowing there. if you took their jive seriously, it'd be like going to study the red army, so we could eventually use their techniques to conquer china. the whole usa has devoted decades to doing nothing but improving test scores, and failed miserably. if they had succeeded, however, that would be meaningless. i hope y'all think about your own children this way: little capitalist engines competing with chinese kids: think of them as mere instruments to be devoted to the use of the american economy and the american state. and i hope your children eventually grow large and clear enough to beat you down like the pinheaded wretches you are.
once again: if you conceive children as little economic units whose job is to drive forward the society's wealth by generating their own, then compulsory k-12 education violates child labor laws. it violates laws on the books and constitutional amendments against slavery, to which it subordinates the weakest and most vulnerable people in our society. it removes them from their families in order to serve the state and the corporation, like missionary schools kidnapping indian children. how else are they ever to become productive members of american society? i. mean. this. stuff. literally.
i often hear it wondered: if there was something happening now like slavery in, say, the 1820s, would i recognize it as evil? would i try to do anything about it? or would i just think it's the way things are and listen to the authoritative voices of senators or newspaper editors that are telling me that it has to be this way, because of the nature of the people we are enslaving, or because of the economic necessities, the very viability of the american economy? well here is such a something.
this war between the children of america and the children of finland has gone on long enough, and i propose a final resolution, so that friedman isn't back with the same column in 2023: let's, in the traditional manner, boldly put the issue on single combat. we of america will select our champion rambo kindergartner; the finns select theirs. they can square off with machetes, maybe. whoever wins gets all the world's money.
i'd rather be ruled by illiterate peasants than by harvard j.d.'s. how do you get a harvard j.d.? by following the rules better than anyone else, by mastering, with tutorial help provided by your parents, the standardized test. i do not believe the average harvard jd is more intelligent than the average person on the street. and i am certain that overall the moral quality of the latter is superior to the former, partly because the deepest need of the average schlumph doesn't consist of dazzling worldly success achieved by total conformity. i don't believe we live in a meritocracy. i believe we live in a frozen class hierarchy. all my life, i have been hanging out, for example, with ph.d.'s and with barbers. i don't think the ph.d.'s are any smarter, but they certainly often are more conventional thinkers, sheer wielders of ideological buzzwords, geniuses of the empty phrase, etc. when you get them to politics, they all say the same sentences in the same order, and they congratulate one another for their intelligence as they do, and sneer at anyone who doesn't. they haven't reflected on their basic beliefs since they were born, and one of the functions of the institutions in which they rise is to require that and call it excellence.
Although a pedantic and math-oriented analytic philosopher and bore, Bertrand Russell got a few things very right...
And, most interstingly according to the Economist, Work. Russell wasn't afraid of hard work, he just didn't like it very much. Thought there were other better uses of time for all of manking. And, the numbers seem to indicate that he was right...
sat scores are declining. now, didn't y'all just spend the last fifteen years devoting all of american education, and all the innovative thinking of great human beings such as arne duncan and the bill and melinda gates foundation, to doing nothing but increasing sat scores? didn't you, in a series of initiatives from no child behind left to race to the top, base your entire conception of education at every level on the sat? isn't that why every child in america spends days every single year now doing sat-style tests? even according to the insane model of education that you yourselves deploy - according to your own arid mechanical minds - you are failing. but i don't think you were ever trying to educate anyone, just producing thingamajigs to enhance american competitiveness in the global economy. that is what you said you were doing, actually. dude, you can't even do that. time for a whole generation of educational visionaries, reformers, and experts to dissipate like a poisonous mist.
on to the common core, you mugs.
so it turns out that 11% of american children have been diagnosed with adhd, and the figure is twice that for high-school age boys. there are many theories, evidently, including something in the water, overdiagnosis, and so on. but i am going to explain this to you clearly and, i believe, decisively. even though psychologists want to go with 'chemical imbalance in the brain' and so on, with the usual completely vague scientific-sounding hooha designed to flummox and reassure us and establish their epistemic authority, adhd is not a condition of the brain. it is a condition of a person in a context. what has changed, i propose, is not anyone's brain, but the institutional context in which those brains are embedded. the american educational system has become ever-more authoritarian, rigid, mindless, and unconnected from anyone's actual body. the dedication to standardized tests means that sitting still and doing the prescribed task in exactly the same way everyone else does it at the same time are more or less all that's left. my daughter, who's in seventh grade, does not have recess. etc etc. 'adhd' the supposed dysfunction or illness or imbalance, would be perfectly normal or useful in a less structured or authoritarian context, or in a context that deployed any basic understanding of or connection with children as human beings. these institutions are really merely diagnosing themselves.
let me just remark that by a state of perfect chemical balance or health, these people just mean capitulation and extreme passivity. psychologists, far from being scientists of any sort, merely reflect the authoritarian institutions from which they emerged and the effortless self-subordination to authority which they literally define as health. say you're an inquisitor. the harder you crack down, the more sinful everyone appears, the more heretics you detect. you are manufacturing heretics by your definitions and the way you conduct your church, but then you think, as you define your arbitrary dogmata ever-more narrowly, that society is degenerating because there are more and more heretics. that's exactly as scientific, as reasonable, and as reflective as this.
Mark Burstein, the University’s executive vice president, told The Daily Princetonian Sunday morning that he has decided to remove his name from the search for the 28th president of Dickinson College, where he was one of two final candidates. Later that day, the school announced that it had chosen Nancy Roseman, the other top contender and a former dean at Williams College, for the position.
Burstein’s announcement came after he visited the Dickinson campus in Carlisle, Pa., on Thursday to give a speech and take questions from the college community.
“The visit ... reminded me of how much I enjoy to lead Princeton, so I decided to remove myself from the search,” Burstein said in an interview.
i'm glad burstein is where he wants to be; he also might want to spend some time mastering the infinitive. i guess i love the insincerity that accrues around something like this; had burstein gotten the job, he'd have been paying stirring tribute to our amazing excellence. we'd be all he ever wanted, as we are for roseman. i wonder what went so horribly wrong. possibly he met our faculty and students, known far and wide for their extremely thorough prep. just joshing; i love y'all!
from my amazing convention coverage, on condi rice: "10:11 'the crisis in k-12 education is a threat to our future," etc. well, that there sentence could have produced at any time since the early sixties. it's been a half-century-long crisis so far. we must do something, but we won't. get over it. give up. you can't force people to learn. i guess you could grab a new fad."
as this memo from my daughter's middle school indicates, we've got it! hook each student up to an mri. look! the science center lit up!
Join us for an amazing and inspiring evening with Dr. Mariale Hardiman, our past Principal and author of Brain-Targeted Teaching for 21st Century Schools (Corwin Press, 2012).
On Wednesday, October 17th at 7PM, Dr. Hardiman and current RPEMS teachers will share with parents how the model has influenced instruction at Roland Park and how its components can be used at home to foster deep and meaningful engagement in learning.
The presentation with Dr. Hardiman is FREE.
Her book, which features many Roland Park teachers, is available for purchase, through Dr. Hardiman, at a discounted price of $30.
Checks should be written to Dr. Mariale Hardiman and can be left in the Wellness Committee mailbox by Oct 1st. Only these pre-purchased books will be available for pick up on the evening of October 17th and Dr. Hardiman will be happy to sign them!
Please consider buying two books and donating one to our teachers.
Babysitting will be available.
maybe they've realized that the most thorough ediucation is a kill shot to the temple. or maybe they ought to target persons.
you know the idea that we should favor 'people with advanced degrees' in immigration basically means: we welcome you as long as you're bourgeois. also these are the people whose situation is least desperate wherever they go. i guess it's a justification in terms of our own economy. one thing i want to say is that to make an economy you need all sorts of people doing all sorts of things, including manual labor, skilled and unskilled. there seems to be a vague notion that if everyone had an engineering degree, everybody would be making a six-figure salary, that 'education is the key to economic advancement'; look that just can't be quite right, and it certainly cannot be extrapolated from what people with advanced degrees make now in relation to high school grads etc. maybe it's someone's road out, but the economy has to be conceived as a whole structure, in terms of the actual needs that can be satisfied by various sorts of people. also the actual skills and preferences of various sorts of workers; which they're suited to and what is needed.
i've changed my mind on standardized testing. our children need much much more of it, and none of anything else. what convinced me is that exxon-mobil is spending millions to push it.
here's a useful piece of statistical information: According to the American Psychological Association, approximately "40% to 80% of school-age children experience bullying at some point during their school careers." possibly the apa is using forward-looning rather than backward-looking statistical techniques. instead of reporting what has actually happened, the statistics try to make something happen in the future; they are antedata. at any rate, i won't even need a grant to agree: ditching approximations, -17% to 136% of children have been bullied. it's an epidemic!