Monday, December 15, 2008

Are Students Being Trained To Be Little Marxists?

No matter who said it--and many, including Winston Churchill, are given credit--there's some truth to the adage that says "If you're not a liberal by the time you're 20 you have no heart, and if you're not a conservative by the time you're 30 you have no brain."

A common lament heard from children is "that's not fair"--life must be fair. We teach them to share their belongings. Mom and dad will take care of them. Mom and dad, the "ruling elite"--their votes count for more than all of the children's put together.

In other words, it's a miniature version of a nanny state. We build it into children. And while it works for children, who are still learning to harness their physical and cognitive abilities, it's a horrible way for adults to function. Sadly, though, some adults never grow out of this stage.

That's a long introduction to this column that, while having a similar title, has a very different subject:

Scott from North Carolina is concerned with the radical views of his students:

Dr. Helen:

I’m a middle/high school teacher, of a social-libertarian, economic-conservative bent. All the talk about indoctrination of kids is extraordinarily true. I have kids pass through my class with some of the most insane, Kos-style concepts running through their heads, really doctrinaire hard-liberal stuff. It only got more blatant as the election wore on (and on, and on). I subbed for a fourth grade class in which a girl trotted out the “Bush caused 9/11″ bit. Are you kidding me?

What can I do to help counter this? I’d like to avoid a whole new generation running on Marxist ideology.

I recommend reading the entire thing, including the comments.


Jason said...

Did you happen to see who presided over the California Electoral College today? None other than Comrade Commissar David Sanchez.

Donalbain said...

Yes, that letter does display a rather sad example of poor education. For example, a woman who is a teacher should not be so confused as to what "Marxist" actually means. Conspiracy theories like the one she mentioned are not a defining feature of Marxism any more than the conspiracy theories over birth certificates are.

Marxism is a historical approach in which the underlying causes of historical events are held to be changes in the means of production and the changes to class relationships this causes. Simply having a silly idea about 911 is NOT Marxism.

mazenko said...

Donalbain correctly identifies a continuing problem in ideological discourse that was best exemplified by the seeming epidemic misunderstanding of what "socialism" is during the presidential election and the financial crisis. It's not enough to understand liberal versus conservative. Voters need to comprehend issues of liberalism versus socialism and conservatism versus libertarianism. Of course, many commentators simply use these terms as epithets designed to have an emotional response, as opposed to the necessary rational one.

I also think the slant in classrooms depends entirely on geography/community. I know many parts of the country and many school systems where a liberal teacher wouldn't pass the interview process.

Donalbain said...

A very close friend of mine wanted to take part in a teacher exchange process. She wanted to teach in a small town, as she wanted to see the part of America you dont see on TV. However, she was told that, as a out lesbian, she would not be welcome in any of the small town schools the agencies worked with.
Indoctrination works both ways.

allen (in Michigan) said...

I'd say the best way to conteract the attraction of socialism is to create a socialist microcosm in the classroom. It's a philosophy that draws its greatest support from those who've never enjoyed its fruit so provide a pedagogical socialist fruit-basket.

I'm not sure how to go about structuring the particulars of the idea but if one could embody the basic elements of the tragedy of the commons, the inevitable creation of a political caste system, then it would go a long way towards illustrating the essential injustice of socialism.

Darren said...

Give grades in a socialist manner--those who have the best grades will have points shaved off and given to those hard-working students below them on the academic ladder.

David said...

Socialism is about the ownership of means of production--it does not automatically imply full equality of outcomes. If you were a Soviet-era steel mill manager, you can bet your quality of life (maybe even your *continuation* of life) depended on achieving your production quota!

Today's "progressives" are simply not excited by production in the way that the old-line Marxists and other socialists's hard to imagine them going into ecstasy over a blast furnace or a hydroelectric dam or even a wind farm. They often demonstrate a contempt for economic values which is closer to traditional Fascism than to traditional socialism, and, like the fascists, they don't really want to *own* the productive resources and deal with all the messy details--just to *control* those resources.

Ellen K said...

I have this problem constantly. The amount of rumors being spread based on Kos like internet conjecture rather than facts was astounding. In fact, when asked, none of the students who were rampant and open supporters of the liberal view could site one incident where their assumed assault on civil liberties occurred. But they believe it's true because that is the message they are bombarded with in the media-especially the squishy liberal media of the likes of PBS, MTV, and almost all of the kid oriented stations. These are the same kids who had been scared to death that the world was coming to an end thanks to these same pundits with agendas.

mazenko said...

The amount of kos-like disinformation is no different than similar conjecture coming from conservative commentators pushing an agenda that influences naive students in an equally opposite direction. Our school paper had a front page editorial blaming the CRA for the entire global financial crisis, arguing that government intervention led to the dramatic drawdown in the economy. Clearly parroting much mis-information he has acquired, the writer shows no real understanding of economics ignoring the role played by CDOs and the scandal surrounding the re-packaging and -re-rating of substandard commodities. Sadly, this student thinks the mortgages of poor people have the clout to bring down a global economy, and he blames the CRA even though 80% of sub-prime loans were not CRA (nor FNM/FRE) and a vast majority of sub-prime CRA loans are not in default. Thus, as Donalbain notes, the indoctrination works both ways.

Darren said...

I hope you're not suggesting that this so-called two-way street is anything near equal. That you can find *a* school newspaper with a story of a conservative slant doesn't convince me that the brainwashing goes both ways. Even at my own school, with a small minority enrollment and high SES, Obama won the student election by a far greater margin than he did the general election.

mazenko said...

No, not exactly. However, the student vote going to Obama - which it did at my school despite a huge Republican majority in the surrounding district - isn't evidence of liberal indoctrination in the schools. Students chose Obama for a variety of reasons, not all related to ideology. For one, this generation is the most tolerant in history concerning social issues. Even among fundamentalist Christian teenagers, tolerance for gay rights, abortion, and other social issues is much higher than the general population. Additionally, the student population had plenty of reasons to oppose John McCain based on the perceived connection to George Bush. Far fewer of my conservative students support the Iraq war or certain practices of the "War on Terror." Obama simply inspired them in a way John McCain couldn't. However, the student population at my school is generally well-informed (minus our CRA-blaming editor) and not remotely liberal.

allen (in Michigan) said...

> Give grades in a socialist manner--those who have the best grades will have points shaved off and given to those hard-working students below them on the academic ladder.

Naw, that's like teaching kids to swim by throwing them in the deep end and not fishing out those who flunk the "exam" before they drown. Besides, in no small measure that's already what occurs in the public education system, the devaluing of education having resulted in a devaluing of the means of measuring education.

Maybe and extension/expansion of Monopoly? Some additions to the rules in which one player engages in some economic redistribution from which they personally benefit.