Friday, February 28, 2003

QUIS CUSTODIET IPSOS CUSTODES

Just for fun, I'm going to try to link to any reports that I come across that concern police brutality and corruption in these here United States. I'm working on the theory that I ought to be able to come across more stories than I might expect if I wasn't paying attention.

It's content for my website, anyway.

My first entry comes from the city of Harry Callahan.

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9th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals Refuses To Reconsider "Under God" Pledge Ban

This is starting to get interesting...

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Thursday, February 27, 2003

POTENTIAL FOR FASCISM II

Norman Mailer says:

There is a subtext to what the "Bushites" are doing as they prepare for war in Iraq. My hypothesis is that President Bush and many conservatives have come to the conclusion that the only way they can save America and get it off its present down slope is to become a regime with a greater military presence and drive toward empire. My fear is that we might lose our democracy in the process.

Click here for more...

Thanks to my good friend, Kevin, for the link.

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FAREWELL MR. ROGERS

This makes me sad.

Won't You Be My Neighbor?

© 1967, Fred M. Rogers

It's a beautiful day in this neighborhood,
A beautiful day for a neighbor.
Would you be mine?
Could you be mine?...
It's a neighborly day in this beauty wood,
A neighborly day for a beauty.
Would you be mine?
Could you be mine?
I've always wanted to have
A neighbor just like you.
I've always wanted to live
In a neighborhood with you.
So, let's make the most of this beautiful day.
Since we're together we might as well say:
Would you be mine?
Could you be mine?
Won't you be my neighbor?
Won't you please,
Won't you please?
Please won't you be my neighbor?


The truth really can't be expressed more simply than that.

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Tuesday, February 25, 2003

THE CONTEXT FOR TRULY UNDERSTANDING THE USA IN 2003

So you still haven't read Howard Zinn's A People's History of the United States? You really ought to do so ASAP. Otherwise, there's a really good chance that you have absolutely no understanding of what's happing these days--even if you are quite certain that you do...

In the meantime, enjoy this recent Zinn speech about the coming war against Iraq that was broadcast on Pacifica by Democracy Now just this morning.

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LET US CONTENT OURSELVES WITH SMALL VICTORIES...FOR NOW

First Surprise, surprise. Sometimes there really are free speech rights in public schools. You just gotta sue for 'em.

Second The British are now equating Bush with Hussein. Personally, I think Bush is far more dangerous. (But then, seeing as how this is the Tehran Times...well, I still think Bush is more dangerous.)

Third Pro-war hypocricy is now starting to embarass the hawks. 'Bout time.

links courtesy of J. Orlin Grabbe

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Saturday, February 22, 2003

EVERYBODY'S GOTTA READ THIS
Eschaton's Guest Blogger Mac Diva Meditates On Southern Neo-Confederates

Click here.


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NOTES FROM ONE OF AMERICA'S MAJOR IDEOLOGICAL FRONTS:
Public Education, Theater, Black History Month, and Paul Robeson


This May, I will have completed five years as a public high school teacher. One extremely important observation that I made about American education during my first month of teaching is that public schools are far, far more political than I could ever have imagined--like government and the news media, public education is a major American ideological battleground. For the most part, I've kept my leftist mouth shut when talking to other teachers (I'm in a Texas conservative hell district) and have been very careful about what I say to students (but I do talk about my beliefs to my students).

Last Thursdsay, in a ritual repeated yearly, the ten or fifteen theater arts teachers of our district met to discuss the state of theater education. Typically, teachers complain that faculty and administrators don't take theater seriously as an academic subject--students are regularly pulled out of theater classes to do extra work in other more traditional, academic classes; generally, teachers in Texas are obsessed with getting their students to pass Bush's "standards" oriented tests and not many of them seem to understand how studying the theater has anything to do with that. So, many teachers in our district see theater education as useless fluff.

Many of the same theater arts teachers at these meetings who complain about not being taken seriously also usually boast of all their shows and productions that, in my humble opinion, are so much useless fluff. That is to say, it seems that most of the theater teachers in my district have a sort of 1930s Mickey Rooney, Our Gang "let's do a show" approach to theater education that does nothing but prove to their detractors that theater education is pointless. At past meetings, I have tried to point out this paradox and that maybe we ought to approach theater more intellectually--I am usually quickly dismissed as an arts "snob," a serious artiste who just doesn't understand the community: "that's not what they want around here; that's not what makes them happy."

This year, I was more assertive. Once again, I pointed out the paradox: "don't you see, you're playing to their bias." Once again, I was called a snob. For the first time, I shot back: "I'm pretty far to the left both politically and philosophically and I believe that elitism of any sort is unethical and wrong." Three teachers burst out into near hysterical guffaws of laughter; this really cracked them up. While they were still laughing, I said calmly, "I'm actually serious. I really mean it. This isn't about snobbery; snobbery is wrong."

The district fine arts coordinator also misunderstood, but in a more respectful way--he thought I was railing away about the nature and bureaucracy of public education. "No," I said, "I've been in this business long enough to understand how things work. I'm talking about what we teach in the classroom. I'm saying that theater is, in fact, a hard academic subject that is studied at many universities all the way up to the doctoral level." Finally, I think I had gotten everybody's attention.

I went on. "I think the best way to illustrate how we can do this at our level is to give you the rundown on my Black History Month unit on Paul Robeson." Very quickly (in order to amaze with a veritable deluge of information), in my old high school debating style, I then proceeded to give them the basics:

In order to contextualize my approach to theater education, I need to say, as I say at the beginning of the year to all my theater arts students, that theater is a four thousand year old tradition that comes from the culture that practically founded western civilization, the ancient Greeks. Indeed, the Greeks were among the very first in the west to formally study philosophy, math, physics, astronomy, geometry, and democracy. They made lasting contributions to architecture, sculpture, the study of history, and poetry. To the Greeks it was all the same thing: the pursuit of knowledge and understanding. Indeed, Aristotle, who taught Alexander the Great, was a major expert on literature, poetry, theater, metaphysics (spirituality), physics (science), and philosophy; Aristotle, who has been studied throughout the ages, is still taken very seriously by scholars today. This is where I am coming from when studying and teaching the theater. Theater is, ideally, the study of everything, the study of the human condition, of human relationships both individually and collectively.

This is also the approach that one should take when studying the great actor, Paul Robeson. If we're going to talk about Robeson, then we have to hit the Harlem Renaissance. That means talking about James Baldwin's experience there as a youngster, talking about Langston Hughes, about Duke Ellington. If we're going to talk about Robeson, then we have to talk about his definitive work as "Othello" and the value of Shakespeare who, as Robeson said, "foresaw the problem of a black man living in a white society." We have to talk about his other great roles such as Brutus Jones in Eugene O'Neill's "The Emperor Jones." We have to talk about Robeson's career long tinkering with the lyrics to the song written for him to sing in "Showboat," "Ol' Man River" such that the racist song of black despair eventually became a song of black triumph and defiance. We have to talk about his pioneering civil rights activism that took place well before the modern civil rights era had begun, activism that ultimately resulted in his blacklisting during the McCarthy era. If we talk about blacklisting, we have to hit the Cold War and the great ideological divide of the twentieth century, communism versus capitalism; we also have to talk about free speech and what it means to the American political system.

This is how we should sell theater arts to administrators, faculty, and to the community, not as "let's do a show," but as one of the most important classes a child can ever take.


That sure did shut up everybody. After a brief silence, the fine arts coordinator gave the floor to another teacher with another topic. When introducing her topic she said that she was going to "rant" about something else.

"Oh you think I was ranting, do you?" I asked.

"Yes, you were ranting." she replied.

But I think I had made my point because nobody had a real response. Unfortunately, I fear that, in the end, I will simply be ignored. Theater arts in my school district will, in all probability be business as usual for the foreseeable future. But then, that's exactly what public education is supposed to be, isn't it? Business as usual: indoctrinating children into the culture of authority and obedience. True education, true thought runs counter to that agenda.

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YAY!!!!!

Atrios noticed me!!!! Alas, because Eschaton switched over to another comment system, there is now no evidence of the all-seeing eye pointing in my direction... Anyway, it was on Wednesday, 2/19/03: Atrios posted a story about a KKK terrorist being arrested in Pennsylvania with the headline "Homegrown Suicide Bomber." I then posted a little joke: "uh, Atrios, don't you mean 'homicide bomber?'" (If you don't know, ultra-conservative Fox News is the only major corporate news venue to embrace Bush's ultra-silly redefining of the term, "suicide bomber.") A few hours later on the comment posting system, the omniscient one responded by rejecting my suggestion and making a call for another term that is hip and funny, but shows respect for the intended victims: something like"klanikazi" maybe.

Okay, I know it's goofy of me to rejoice, but, hey, I'm a teacher; it's not like my life is exciting or anything...

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MY DOOMED ATTEMPT AT BEING A LETTERHACK:

Media critic and writer of "What Liberal Media?" Eric Alterman writes about how the corporate media have successfully redefined the American political spectrum such that "far, loony right-wing" now means simply "conservative," "conservative" means "moderate," and "moderate-right" now means "liberal." "Liberal," of course, now means "crazy." Ordinarily, this intense euphemizing doesn't really confuse me. Recently, however, it doomed one of my few attempted forays into the mainstream press's letter pages.

Slate's "liberal" writer Emily Yoffe recently had an anti-peace movement essay published in the Houston Chronicle. Silly me, not being a reader of Slate, not realizing that she's supposedly "liberal," I just figured that because she refers to the peace movement as being "morally bankrupt," that she was yet another one of those loud mouthed, sermonizing conservative weirdos. I mean that's how the essay reads, for Christ's sakes!!!! But, no. She was supposedly speaking as a "liberal."

This, I think, is what probably doomed my letter hack response to the essay (if it ever had a chance to be printed at all...).

Anyway, for your reading enjoyment, I now post my ill-fated letter to the editor here. For what it's worth, I think that if it looks like a duck, quacks like a duck, and swims like a duck, then it's probably dog poo. Or conservative, for that matter. My letter:

I am a proud signer of the NION statement and I deeply love America.

Whenever I hear one of those venomous, condescending, war-mongering, right-wing tirades against those "America hating" progressives, something always tugs at the back of my head: "the marketplace of ideas." The great philosophers, such as Locke, Hobbes, and Mill, who heavily influenced our country's founding fathers, expressed democracy's absolute and crucial need for vigorous debate. In other words, no "marketplace of ideas" means no democracy.

When a conservative tells me that I am "morally bankrupt" for doing what I believe is my patriotic responsibility, publicly expressing my vision for our grand nation, I am both sickened and perplexed. Accusing progressives of such a thing only serves to stifle "the marketplace of ideas," without which our democracy cannot survive. If any group should be called "morally bankrupt," it is the multitude of self-important, snobbish shouters on the right; they try to destroy debate, and, therefore, destroy democracy.

From this point of view the true near-treasonous behavior is coming from the likes of Emily Yoffe, Anne Coulter, or Fox News' Bill O'Reilly who told peace activist Jeremy Glick to "Shut up! Shut up!" live on TV in the wildly popular "no spin zone."

This is basic Civics 101. Doesn't anybody else get this?


Well, I think that at least I get it...

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Friday, February 21, 2003

IS FIDEL CASTRO ACTUALLY A REALLY COOL GUY?

You decide. First, let's set the mood. Bueno. On to the story...

CounterPunch's Saul Landau interviews Cuba's Vice President, Ricardo Alarcon. The second-in-command of the nation most often victimized by the evil terrorist force that Martin Luther King, Jr. once called "the greatest purveyor of violence in the world today" (en otras palabras, Los Estados Unidos) relates an alternative understanding of "the war on terrorism."

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Wednesday, February 19, 2003

FAREWELL JOHNNY PAYCHECK

His biggest hit:

TAKE THIS JOB AND SHOVE IT

(Written by David Allen Coe)

Take this job and shove it,
I ain't workin' here no more.
My woman done left,
An' took all the reasons I was workin' for.
You better not to try to stand in my way,
As I'm a walkin' out the door.
Take this job and shove it,
I ain't workin' here no more.

I've been workin' in this fact'ry,
For nigh on fifteen years.
All this time, I watched my woman,
Drownin' in a pool of tears.
An I've seen a lot of my good folk die,
Had a lot of bills to pay.
I'd give the shirt right off of my back,
If I had the guts to say.

Take this job and shove it,
I ain't workin' here no more.
My woman done left,
An' took all the reasons I was workin' for.
You better not to try to stand in my way,
As I'm a walkin' out the door.
Take this job and shove it,
I ain't workin' here no more.

Well, that foreman, he's a regular dog,
The line boss is a fool.
Got a brand new flat-top haircut;
Lord, he thinks he's cool.
One of these days, I'm gonna blow my top,
And sucker, he's gonna pay
Lord, I can't wait to see their faces,
When I get the nerve to say:

Take this job and shove it,
I ain't workin' here no more.
My woman done left,
An' took all the reasons I was workin' for.
You better not to try to stand in my way,
As I'm a walkin' out the door.
Take this job and shove it,
I ain't workin' here no more.

Take this job and shove it.


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Monday, February 17, 2003

IMPORTANT LINKS CULLED FROM ESCHATON OVER THE WEEKEND

What with all the cool links, essays, jokes, and the opportunity to post my own thoughts and pit them in debate against other readers, I'm rapidly becoming addicted to the Eschaton blog page. Anyway, check out these links; I find them to be rather important information.

Bush administration attempts to supress New York peace march. Click here. This is actually quite frightening. As Atrios (the mysterious identity of the Eschaton blogger) said, "If we (actually) had a liberal media this would be a huge story." Indeed. Unfortunately, terribly, terribly, terribly unfortunately, we have a ragingly, flamingly conservative media.

Rumsfeld wants to make Germany pay dearly for opposing Bush's war, the most convincing evidence yet that he's out of his mind. Click here. I don't think it's that good of an idea to piss off Germany and potentially encourage them to build up their own military at the same time...I mean, isn't there some sort of historical precedent to worry about here?

The worst, most over-the-top example of violating the seperation between church and state I've ever heard of. Click here. Sadly, I think things are headed back in this direction in countless pockets across the country, including the school district where I teach.

A simple, clear, concise explanation of why Bush's tax plans are suicide for the USA: the most convincing evidence yet that he's really stupid. Click here. There are pretty damned good reasons why the rich should be taxed at a much higher rate than the poor and the middle class.

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Sunday, February 16, 2003

NASA REVISITED

My old friend, Matt, who I mentioned in my earlier post about the Columbia explosion, sent me a link to another essay about the disaster. I feel like it poses something of a challenge to my mythologizing of space exploration and I need to respond. First, go read the essay here.

Now on to my response.

My first observation is that Joe Keohane's writing is all over the place and I am having difficulty figuring out what the main thrust of her essay is. It's probably either because she is an undergraduate (a junior at Georgetown) and hasn't quite perfected her writing skills OR because Georgetown is a much better school than the university I attended (U of Texas at Austin) and I'm not quite up to the task of following along. It's most likely a combination of both. Anyway, I'll assume that her overall point is somehow dealing with the essay's title, "Are We Really United in Mourning?" and her closing paragraph which seems to advocate some normal human sympathy for the dead astronauts along with suggesting an overall demystification of space exploration.

Keohane's essay brought to mind a couple of thoughts.

First, when UT film graduate Robert Rodriguez's Spanish language film, "El Mariachi," became a surprise success, seemingly half of Austin was abuzz about how cool it was that this guy could temporarily sell his body to Pharmaco (they test drugs on students and the homeless and pay them for it), raise a paltry $7k, and make one of the best films of the early 90's (anybody that had gone through UT's RTF production track knew that his formal education probably had nothing to do with it). I heard about a friend of a friend who was skeptical: it struck him as impossible that such a good film could be made so cheaply and suggested some sort of hype-oriented conspiracy theory.

Second, here is a bit of dialogue from an episode of the Simpsons:

Sullen Teen at Lolapalooza: Are you being sarcastic?

Another Sullen Teen at Lolapalooza: I don't even know anymore...

I feel like, given the circumstances described by Chomsky in my post below, American culture now vacillates between two extremes: people either zealously believe in some sort of set, dogmatic ideology, philosophy, or religion, or people zealously believe in nothing at all. I'm sure that Keohane has a great deal of intellectual substance (I really did enjoy reading her essay; it forced me to think a great deal), but I'm very tempted to describe her as Shakespeare's Benedick once addressed his wit-rival and lover, Beatrice: "Lady Disdain."

It's not that I disagree with most of the points she made. I don't think it's so bad that she felt no sadness about the Columbia; as the Butthole Surfers have shown, "Strangers Die Every Day." I didn't read Herbert's essay in the NYT, but I'm sure it was typically pundit-pompous and absurd. I agree that Columbia does not equal the terrorist attacks of September 11th. I agree that there are major hazards when people are idealized. I agree that the loss of the Columbia was "sad not senseless."

It's just that I got such a strong feeling of bias against mythology, against inspirational stories, against the concept of belief itself from her essay.

In another essay, "The Narrative Construction of Reality," psychologist Jerome Bruner has shown how human beings literally understand their lives and the world in terms of stories (I would have provided a link to the essay if I could but it doesn't seem to be readily available via Google search). Clearly, such a notion provides endless opportunities for evil manipulation of the masses--indeed, the philosophies of Goebbels now reign free in both American politics and American advertising/P.R. But does this mean that we must suck the wind out of ALL national myths? Must progressives believe that there is not one great thing about our culture?

I'm not sure that Keohane was advocating such a position, but I certainly feel that her essay clearly drifts toward that point of view.

My response to Keohane's essay, in short, is that Americans should, indeed, be wary of how the corporate media and politicians (and rock stars, for that matter) make myths for general consumption. After all, in the wake of the terrorist attacks of September 11th, the stars and stripes clearly meant war and revenge, not freedom and democracy. But we should not be so skeptical that we become totally without hopes or dreams.

Like it or not, our lives can only be understood in terms of stories and myths. The challenge is to understand exactly what those stories and myths mean, and then to discredit those which deceive, and to glorify those which enlighten.

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THE CORPORATE MEDIA SAYS...

I just noticed that CNN's Headline News is covering yesterday's mass peace demonstrations in such a way as to make them appear to be supporting Saddam Hussein. "Peace Protests Please Iraq" is the video text headline accompanying alternating video footage of the marches and rallies and of happy Iraqi citizens and leaders; the anchor's voice talks about how pleased Iraq is about worldwide resistance to Bush's war mongering. The overall effect is something like, "if you oppose the war, then you must be supporting the Evil Doers."

Look out, peaceniks, the spin is on...

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THE PEACE MOVEMENT'S TET OFFENSIVE

...in 1968 the General launched a major surprise offensive against American and South Vietnamese forces on the eve of the lunar New Year celebrations. Province capitals throughout the country were seized, garrisons simultaneously attacked and, perhaps most shockingly, in Saigon the U.S. Embassy was invaded. The cost in North Vietnamese casualties was tremendous but the gambit produced a pivotal media disaster for the White House and the presidency of Lyndon Johnson. Giap's strategy toppled the American commander in chief. It turned the tide of the war...

John Colvin author of "Giap Volcano Under Snow"

I was sick all day yesterday and missed the local protest but I did try to keep abreast of what was going on while at home. TV news wasn't much help (so typical), but the internet was buzzing. In fact, last night while reading news coverage at the Houston Chronicle's website, I clicked through a series of numerous photos of the numerous demonstrations around the world. The global scale of the protests totally amazed me, real jaw-dropping stuff. MILLIONS joined in the collective "fuck you" to the Bush junta. Could this have an effect similar to the Tet Offensive?

God, I hope so.

Congratulations to the peace movement on a job well done! Hooray!

(I am NOT being sarcastic; I really mean it.)

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POTENTIAL FOR FASCISM

Noam Chomsky says:

In the 1970's it was another upsurge of foundations trying to take over the educational institutions...the effect has been to pretty much demolish civil society, to turn people into what is the ideal...a completely fragmented, atomized society where everyone is totally alone doing nothing but trying to pursue created wants...go to work, get lower and lower wages for more and more hours and less and less benefits and security in a flexible labor market: that's the kind of utopia they're looking for and it's not very far from there... the country is (now) like a devastated peasant society. You really have to go back to Europe and the black death in the fourteenth century to find anything similar: people are scared, angry, hostile, hate everything, don't know what they hate, don't have anybody else to talk to, just angry, desperate. There are cults all over the place at a scale that is unknown in any other society...the level of religious fundamentalism alone is probably the highest in the world...higher than Iran...not (just) the right; the left is the same...it's just a dissolved society...the portent is ominous...the kind of a situation that, indeed, is reminiscent of Germany in the late 30's...or Iran in the late 70's.

Chomsky said this during a lecture on class war in 1996, five years before the September 11th terrorist attacks. As far as I can tell, things have only gotten worse. Listen to streaming audio of the entire lecture here.

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Saturday, February 15, 2003

STRANGE BEDFELLOWS

Guess who's also opposed to the impending war with Iraq? Read this:

The simple fact of the matter is, Bush is being sent a strong delusion, so that he can spiral America further down his path of perversion, drawing ever closer to her destruction. The area that is today Iraq was once known as Babylon. Anyone with half a brain and an ability to read the Bible knows that Babylon is the spiritual enemy of God's people, and the center of all that is evil, the Type used in the Bible to represent the final judgment of God against all that have rejected Him. Why would Bush, if not to position himself this way, want anything to do with running Babylon? Only the purely evil would partake on such a folly, and that gives us further proof of God's hatred for this evil nation.

That's right, it's everybody's favorite, crazy gay-basher, Fred Phelps of GodHatesFags.com. Read the rest of his psycho rhetoric on the Iraq war here.

Hee, hee. I'm a bedfellow with Fred Phelps. I hope he's gentle; it will be my first time.

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Sunday, February 09, 2003

MORE ON THE O'REILLY/GLICK EXCHANGE

Read the NION press release here. I would also like to point out that I have signed the Not In Our Name statement, as well.

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FREE THOUGHT IN THE CLASSROOM

At the fantastic Eschaton blog site, one can post comments on each of Atrios's blog posts. Last weekend, I got myself caught up in a bit of a debate about issues surrounding the racist comments by and subsequent firing of Missouri middle school teacher Jendra Loeffelman. Read about it here (they may move the story into their archives soon; if that's the case, there should be a link in the right margin). If you've been reading Real Art for a while, then you probably realize what some of my views on race and racism in the US are: we live in a very racist country but propaganda tends to make most whites not realize it. Anyway, because I am a teacher myself, I am a bit worried about the outright firing of an educator for expressing a controversial opinion, despite the fact that her opinion is abhorrent to me--to quote Voltaire, "I may disagree with what you have to say, but I shall defend to the death your right to say it." Such a point of view is absolutely crucial in the classroom: without it, critical thought is impossible.

Anyway, lots of liberals still tend toward the decidedly uncritical "politically correct" point of view. This was the point of conflict for the debate on Eschaton. I'm going to post my comments only; you ought to get the gist of what it is that I am responding to from context.

the Eschaton debate (Ron's statements)

my first comment:

I, too, am a high school teacher and I find that I've got to agree with Elias for the most part. The everyday reality of public education is that it is ultimately impossible to keep a "fair and balanced" kind of ideological neutrality on political and cultural issues. As Elias pointed out, students and teachers talk; this seems impossible to avoid, even if I wanted to. Avoidance of hot topic issues is a statement in and of itself: no, can't talk about sex; no, can't talk about dirty words; nope, not religion; drugs, just say no; shut up: do as I say!

Kids are smarter than that contrary to popular opinion.

Another problem is that teachers' spoutings of conventional political wisdoms, no matter how stupid, are often tolerated or encouraged. For instance, the school where I work in Texas has a government/economics teacher who openly wore an "impeach Clinton" button during the weeks of the impeachment and trial process; nobody seemed to be bothered by this.

Given this pathetic reality, there's no way I'm going to keep my mouth shut when teenagers ask me about condoms, for instance--Texas is, by law, an abstinence-only sex ed state. Personally, I do try to tell my students that I'm one of those "crazy liberals" and to take everything I say with a grain of salt. I've also, at the beginning of every school year, taken to reading University of Texas journalism professor Robert Jensen's teaching philosophy (posted on his homepage) to my classes to cover my tail; it's a good essay on critical thought, objectivity, and the classroom.

Actually, one could argue that, in many ways, the main thrust of public education is ENTIRELY ideological in nature.

School heirarchies are based on a 19th century Prussian military model (this is no joke; check it out!); that is, discipline and order almost always prevail, while the pursuit of knowledge, understanding, and civic responsibility take only a secondary role. In the most important ways, American public education is about indoctrinating children into the culture of authority and obedience. School is an ideological institution to begin with but nobody wants to admit this.

The real point to consider given the unreliability of "objectivity" is the ideology being taught, or what some have called the "unofficial curriculum." I bet that Loeffelman was not the only faculty member with such views; these views are understood by students whether openly spoken or not.

my second comment:

Dominion said, "a feature of Houston High Schools..." I teach in a community right outside of Houston and my experience is a bit different from Dominion's.

Dominion said, "'free speech' rights are curtailed all the time...that is exactly as it should be." This is just not true. The part of the Houston metro area where I work is arguably far more fundamentalist than Houston in general. Here, the reality is that teachers have all kinds of free speech rights as long as they parrot the prevailing community values. That is, teachers openly bash evolution, even biology teachers. Teachers openly advocate drilling for oil in the arctic. Teachers openly profess their Christian beliefs and speckle their talk with religious innuendo. "Student sponsored prayer" is actually just a facade for school sponsored prayer. The list goes on and on.

Given this circumstance and my own progressivism, I must be very careful about how I speak. But I do speak because teenagers are very concerned with precisely those issues that Dominion says we should not talk about. I must speak because nobody else at my school seems to lean leftward--my school's students are being deprived of alternatives to their community's extremely narrow point of view.

Granted, it would be suicide to push, say, the validity of evolution but it's pretty safe to say something like, "evolution is biology's organizing principle; you don't understand modern biology if you don't understand evolution--you don't have to believe it, but you do have to understand it." Or, "feminists believe that no woman can truly be socially equal to men unless she can choose the circumstances under which she has a child; pro-lifers, however, define a fetus to be a person and therefore abortion is murder--from that point of view, America is drowning in blood." I've got to kiss a few rings, but just getting the liberal view into consideration at all is subversive given the community.

I think Elias defends Loeffelman for the same reason that I do: stifling classroom discussion from the left also means stifling classroom discussion from the right. I totally disagree with Loeffelman's comments and I also believe that she should have taken the opportunity to have a larger, more wide-ranging classroom discussion (this was her true misdeed). But teachers must be allowed to state their opinions and challenge students' notions. This is how to teach "critical thinking." Refraining from controversy makes apathetic students who make C's into apathetic adults who do not vote.

Don't get me wrong, I do not hold up Loeffelman to be a paragon of critical thought. However, the ideas at stake here are hopelessly interwoven with the controversy her comments created. Is she being fired for stating her taboo opinion or for not allowing for dissenting points of view (or telling students about them if no one knows how to or that they should dissent)?

If she can be fired, maybe I can be fired for talking about condoms in my abstinence-only, high-teen-pregnancy-rate school. This is what's on the line. The real problem is that schools in general almost never allow for a diversity of opinion. Change that and things should be better: athiest teachers, Christian teachers, feminist teachers, neo-liberal teachers, etc. Everybody gets numerous points of view.

And finally, Dominion said, "It is not, never, ever the teachers job to supplant the morals that I teach my kids at home." Get over it. School is already and always has been an ideological institution of control and discipline; this is the main lesson that ALL children graduate with: follow orders when you are a subservient; give orders when you are a superior--you are on your own. Do you really want that taught to your children? Well, it is. Given that reality, I, for one, will continue to talk with my students about morals, culture, ethics, politics, sex, drugs, rock and roll and dirty words.

my third post:

Actually, I don't equate the value of left and right opinion at all. (I'm pretty far left and my personal view is that conservatism is quite evil.) Rather, I believe that conservatism as a philosophy has become so overwhelmingly dominant in the public discourse that the United States effectively no longer has a "marketplace of ideas" (if we ever truly had one at all...). No "marketplace of ideas" equals no democracy. This is a factual reality. Obviously, it's much worse in Houston.

My point is that if students don't get multiple views all the way across the political spectrum, they never learn how to think. Unfortunately, this is the situation the country is in: people don't think and this really frightening civic problem can be blamed squarely on the schools (and the corporate media, I suppose, as well). Public education is far more about "do it because I told you to or else" than about debate and thought; questioning authority is seen as the worst thing a student can do, worse, even, than fighting. Even the major teachers' unions (unions are supposed to be liberal, right?) want more classroom discipline. The entire educational system is in on the racket. There is seemingly no hope for the situation changing.

Furthermore, in order to understand the importance of liberal philosophies, students must understand conservative philosophies. I might even venture to say that most adult conservatives don't fully understand their own points of view, ditto for liberals. That's why there is effectively no real debate in this country at the political level: political beliefs are, for most people, simply strong, emotionally image-laden slogans. Rarely do I ever encounter a true clash of ideas in the public realm.

I stand for real debate because I believe that on a fair playing field, liberal views will win. But the public is unaccustomed to true debate, to a true clash of ideas, and is, therefore, wary of that which truly enables democracy.

Just because I think that conservative views should be heard does not mean that I equate right and left thinking. In fact, I always tell my students what my opinion is on almost any subject and that I believe I'm right--I also admit that there are lots of other seemingly intelligent people who disagree with me. But my point gets across and recognizing that there are other points of view besides my own makes me all the more credible.

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GREAT GAME!

Play Gulf War 2 online.

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Saturday, February 08, 2003

FUN, FRIGHTENING LINKS FOR THE WEEKEND:

Patriot Act II: "You are a rebel traitor and a spy!"

Bill Moyers exposes the latest Darth Vader empowerment bill.

Love George W. Bush!

He's so dreamy...

Hate George W. Bush!

Let's impeach the fucker.

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Friday, February 07, 2003

CONSERVATIVES ADMIT IT! THEY KNOW THERE'S NO "LIBERAL MEDIA BIAS"

Check it out here.

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TOM TOMORROW SEZ:

And a more-important-than-usual Unscientific Poll Watch: some jackasses are trying to rev up the good old days of McCarthyism and blacklists. Go here, right now, and vote in favor of actor David Clennon's right to speak his damn mind. (It's one vote per logged IP, and you have to give an email address. I know that sort of thing is likely to bother some of you, but there's always Hotmail. I think this one matters. Given the cowardice of the networks, this guy's career might well be on the line here.)

Afterthought from a reader: "Please suggest that readers not only vote, but that they add posts to their own blogs to get their readers to vote. Right now it's 2:1 for firing him. Gotta do all we can. First amendment and all that..."

Consider yourselves asked.


This is your mission should you decide to accept it...

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Wednesday, February 05, 2003

update to the update:

I just watched O'Reilly answering viewer email on last night's exchange with Glick. He was utterly unashamed and unapologetic, proud, even. This is "fair and balanced" in 2003, a real "no spin zone." Heh. Heh.



PSYCHO O'REILLY UPDATE

I found a link to some streaming audio of the fiery exchange. This is VERY enjoyable.

Thanks to the Hamster for the link.

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EVERYBODY'S GOTTA HEAR THIS

Thank you, thank you, thank you Tom Tomorrow for getting this transcript! These days there's nothing much more pleasing to me than a conservative asshole being made to look like an asshole. In this case, it's Smarmy Bunghole B-team starting tight end Bill O'Reilly:

Bully Bill

I caught a bit of the O'Reilly Factor during dinner last night, during which Bill berated Jeremy Glick, a signatory of the Not in Our Name ad whose father died in the 9/11 attacks. I couldn't find a transcript on the Fox site, but happily, one came in over the transom (probably pulled off Lexis, so no link available).

This is how Bill O'Reilly behaves when faced with genuine disagreement:


O'REILLY: You are mouthing a far left position that is a marginal position in this society, which you're entitled to.

GLICK: It's marginal -- right.

O'REILLY: You're entitled to it, all right, but you're -- you see, even --I'm sure your beliefs are sincere, but what upsets me is I don't think your father would be approving of this.

GLICK: Well, actually, my father thought that Bush's presidency was illegitimate.

O'REILLY: Maybe he did, but...

GLICK: I also didn't think that Bush...

O'REILLY: ... I don't think he'd be equating this country as a terrorist nation as you are.

GLICK: Well, I wasn't saying that it was necessarily like that.

O'REILLY: Yes, you are. You signed...

GLICK: What I'm saying is...

O'REILLY: ... this, and that absolutely said that.

GLICK: ... is that in -- six months before the Soviet invasion in Afghanistan, starting in the Carter administration and continuing and escalating while Bush's father was head of the CIA, we recruited a hundred thousand radical mujahadeens to combat a democratic government in Afghanistan, the Turaki government.

O'REILLY: All right. I don't want to...

GLICK: Maybe...

O'REILLY: I don't want to debate world politics with you.

GLICK: Well, why not? This is about world politics.

O'REILLY: Because, No. 1, I don't really care what you think.

GLICK: Well, OK.

O'REILLY: You're -- I want to...

GLICK: But you do care because you...

O'REILLY: No, no. Look...

GLICK: The reason why you care is because you evoke 9/11...

O'REILLY: Here's why I care.

GLICK: ... to rationalize...

O'REILLY: Here's why I care...

GLICK: Let me finish. You evoke 9/11 to rationalize everything from domestic plunder to imperialistic aggression worldwide.

O'REILLY: OK. That's a bunch...

GLICK: You evoke sympathy with the 9/11 families.

O'REILLY: That's a bunch of crap. I've done more for the 9/11 families by their own admission -- I've done more for them than you will ever hope to do.

GLICK: OK.

O'REILLY: So you keep your mouth shut when you sit here exploiting those people.

GLICK: Well, you're not representing me. You're not representing me.

O'REILLY: And I'd never represent you. You know why?

GLICK: Why?

O'REILLY: Because you have a warped view of this world and a warped view of this country.

GLICK: Well, explain that. Let me give you an example of a parallel...

O'REILLY: No, I'm not going to debate this with you, all right.

GLICK: Well, let me give you an example of parallel experience. On September 14...

O'REILLY: No, no. Here's -- here's the...

GLICK: On September 14...

O'REILLY: Here's the record.

GLICK: OK.

O'REILLY: All right. You didn't support the action against Afghanistan to remove the Taliban. You were against it, OK.

GLICK: Why would I want to brutalize and further punish the people in Afghanistan...

O'REILLY: Who killed your father!

GLICK: The people in Afghanistan...

O'REILLY: Who killed your father.

GLICK: ... didn't kill my father.

O'REILLY: Sure they did. The al Qaeda people were trained there.

GLICK: The al Qaeda people? What about the Afghan people?

O'REILLY: See, I'm more angry about it than you are!

GLICK: So what about George Bush?

O'REILLY: What about George Bush? He had nothing to do with it.

GLICK: The director -- senior as director of the CIA.

O'REILLY: He had nothing to do with it.

GLICK: So the people that trained a hundred thousand Mujahadeen who were...

O'REILLY: Man, I hope your mom isn't watching this.

GLICK: Well, I hope she is.

O'REILLY: I hope your mother is not watching this because you -- that's it. I'm not going to say anymore.

GLICK: OK.

O'REILLY: In respect for your father...

GLICK: On September 14, do you want to know what I'm doing?

O'REILLY: Shut up! Shut up!

GLICK: Oh, please don't tell me to shut up.

O'REILLY: As respect -- as respect -- in respect for your father, who was a Port Authority worker, a fine American, who got killed unnecessarily by barbarians...

GLICK: By radical extremists who were trained by this government...

O'REILLY: Out of respect for him...

GLICK: ... not the people of America.

O'REILLY: ... I'm not going to...

GLICK: ... The people of the ruling class, the small minority.

O'REILLY: Cut his mic. I'm not going to dress you down anymore, out of respect for your father.

We will be back in a moment with more of THE FACTOR.

GLICK: That means we're done?

O'REILLY: We're done.


The last few seconds of that exchange were really something to watch. I don't think I've ever seen a shouting head actually tell his guest to "Shut up! Shut up!" or to tell his producer to "cut his mic."


Thanks again to Tom Tomorrow and his ever wise pen!

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Tuesday, February 04, 2003

TO GO BOLDLY

Here is an excerpt from the introduction to Susan Faludi’s seminal work (at least, I hope it will be ten years from now) on the social construction of American masculinity, “Stiffed” (so I guess that “seminal” is the right word one way or the other); it is a sort of composite account of a father and his son in the late 1950s sharing an important bonding-moment of reverence, astonishment, and awe while watching an early American satellite fly overhead:

The father touches the boy’s shoulder and directs his vision to a faraway glimmer. The boy looks up, knowing that his father is pointing out more than just an object; it is a beacon of pride and secret knowledge, a paternal gift rocketing him into a future his father had helped him to launch. At first, all he sees is the blanket of stars spreading out cold and vast between the trees. But then, there it is at last, a pinpoint of light crawling across the firmament, infinitesimally tiny, impossibly bright.

She really nailed it for me. That is, when I read this passage for the first time, I thought, “that’s me and Dad,” even though my moment was in the early 1970s instead of the 50s, and we were most likely watching TV rather than looking at the sky, coverage of Skylab or of a later moonshot or some such.

NASA, for at least two generations of Americans, probably three or four, has been symbolic of everything about our country that is good. It has meant and, for many, still means knowledge, science, bravery, exploration in an old world sense, international cooperation and friendly competition, racial harmony, hope. NASA means working toward the uplifting future offered by Gene Roddenberry’s Star Trek.

I am very cynical, disillusioned about much that was taught to me about America when I was a boy. But space exploration, in principle, remains unsullied to me. NASA, while certainly imperfect, still makes my heart swell with humanistic pride. I know how silly it sounds, but I still believe it with every ounce of my being: man’s destiny is in space; man’s destiny is to understand the universe.

I know that there are reasonable criticisms of NASA. Project Censored has shown how every shuttle launch is an environmental disaster. Singer/poet Gil Scott-Heron best articulates another major criticism, that space money should be better used, in his poem “Whitey on the Moon." Also, the military brass and other hawks hungrily eye space technology and the strategic advantages of space flight (a tension that has existed since NASA’s early days).

These problems, however, can and hopefully will be solved. Space exploration as a concept is not a problem in and of itself. Scientists and engineers can overcome the ecological issues. There is plenty of money in America for the sick, hungry, and homeless: take it from the military, not from NASA. And speaking of the military, they will use ANY suitable technology to make killing more efficient—war is the evil, not space.

When I woke up last Saturday and heard the awful news, all I could think of was what happened seventeen years ago. I was a senior in high school and I had to cut class to watch news coverage of the Challenger disaster. The cluttered and cramped audio-visual storage room of our school’s library had a television showing the explosion again and again and again. There were seven or eight of us watching, a crowd in the small room. I was stunned, unable to know what to think or feel, much like I had been five years earlier when I had heard about John Lennon’s murder.

But my close friend, Matt, standing beside me, understood immediately. He cried. He knew.

This is how I have always remembered the loss of the Challenger. This memory, not the loss of the Columbia itself, is what made me cry last Saturday. It is truly sad to lose such brave, hard-working, brilliant individuals. Their deaths, however, are charged with symbolic importance that exceeds the value of any individual American life. When our astronauts die in the line of duty, optimism and hope, as aspects of national identity, are dealt a savage, brutal blow.

So the real question here is not, “does this mean that we should abandon space exploration?” Rather, the question should be, “when are we going to get really, really serious about traveling to the stars?” I am happy to note that most polls are indicating that the national will is to continue exploring space.

But I say it’s time to expand, not simply continue, mankind’s greatest quest.

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Saturday, February 01, 2003