Two posts ago I mentioned I had one more equity event to attend as I listened in person to the blueprints of intended transformation for all metro areas, not even just the US. So December 4, I attended the roll-out of the Harvard Equality of Opportunity Project at a meeting of the Atlanta regional Housing Authority. Among those special guests recognized by name at the event were the Metro Atlanta Chamber of Commerce, the group that had just put out that Metro Atlanta Equity Atlas I have written about, and the head of the Georgia Partnership for Excellence in Education. Apparently I am not the only one who gets that all these entities and terms are linked in a common transformative vision of the future.
As I have been attending all these events or reading mentioned books like White Flight, it has been hard for me not to notice the extent to which beliefs in things that are not so, or which did not happen in the manner described, are being presented as fact. One of the points made at the Wednesday event by representatives of an entity, Georgia StandUp, with ties to ACORN, complained of the still present “plantation mentality.” That this was the reason it was hard in metro Atlanta to move from the bottom percentage of income earners to the top 20%.
Now I can be a pretty serious nerd, but we are not going to have that kind of policy discussion. I was struck at several of these events, however, about the myths about money and power, and who has it and how they got it, that are taken for granted by speakers or audience members. It is as if everyone believes that only predators prevail, and they now want governments to step in so various groups can supposedly take their turn being a predator and dictating who can do what, and where, and with whom. Treating society and the economy and people like we actually are a plantation in need of new owners and overseers.
I keep leaving sad and climbing in my car and thinking we are in great trouble if so many with political power and the ability to coerce taxpayers have so few accurate perceptions about how the world worked to create mass prosperity. As Daniel Hannan from the last post noted:
“In almost every period of human history, people’s circumstances were fixed at birth…The miracles of the past three and a half centuries–the unprecedented improvements in democracy, in longevity, in freedom, in literacy, in calorie intake, in infant survival rates, in height, in equality of opportunity–came about largely because of the individualist market system developed in the Anglosphere.
All these miracles followed from the recognition of people as free individuals, equal before the law, and able to make agreements one with another for mutual benefit.”
And we are now using education reforms like those new civic values and regional planning and new visions of reforming Workforce Development and Human Capital Policies to throw it all away. http://www.brookings.edu/~/media/research/files/papers/2013/12/04%20workforce%20development%20jacobs/fedroleworkforcedev.pdf We have lots of people in power who clearly believe the myths of still dominant racism they were taught to foster a sense of grievance that cannot be extinguished until capitalism goes. With no idea of how much they have been relying on its fruits.
The post title comes from a 1937 quote from Zalmen Slesinger in his book Education and the Class Struggle where he wrote about the desire to use the schools to shift society away from capitalism. Slesinger agreed with Earl Browder, then the head of CPUSA, who had said “The school system must itself be revolutionized before it can become an instrument of revolution–or of any serious social change.” Which is precisely why we are now seeing district conversion charters and limitations on elected local school boards and accreditation agencies assuming classroom policy oversight. Their leaders know what Browder meant even if we do not. As Slesinger wrote:
“[These] molders of the minds of the masses must assume the role of the propagandist, the political strategist, using whatever techniques may be effective in convincing and in converting the minds of the masses as speedily and as effectively as possible. Failure to do so is to expose the masses to the destructive demagogy of the ruling class.”
These quotes were in a Chapter called “A Fascist and Communist view of the function of the American school” in a book by Professor Clarence J. Karier. I noticed the strong resemblance between what was described there and what the actual Common Core implementation is looking like and the rhetoric being used. As Karier noted when he wrote the book in 1967: “The end clearly justifies the means for each group. If myth satisfies the irrational need of the masses in a mass society and if it serves as an efficient vehicle of manipulating the people, then both would use it for their own purposes.” And that’s still the case even if those who hold such a view of education run under the banner of a mainstream political party, or work in aid of a regional planning authority or taxing district. Lots of ways to effect these same ends while masquerading as a moderate or even a conservative. At least the ACORN affiliates are not masking what they pursue.
One more time with Karier as he noted that “[b]oth totalitarian views conceive of education as a weapon of indoctrination to be wielded by the power elite.” That’s the natural outgrowth of Statism through the ages and suddenly everyone with ambition or greed or a sense of grievance is lobbying to become a member of the planning and predatory power elite. Which is why the myths being created by Harvard history professor Lisa McGirr in her 2001 Suburban Warriors: The Origins of the New American Right are so dangerously effective in creating mass beliefs that it is the Right that is selfish and irrational. Borderline paranoids and delusionals who saw communist threats where none really existed and who held an erroneous “mythic vision of the nation’s past.”
McGirr used Orange County, California as the “lens” for examining the Conservative movement, and the legitimacy of the suburban vision, and ultimately the President they helped first promote as a Governor, Ronald Reagan. In her chapter on “The Conservative Worldview” McGirr complained of hostility “toward liberal ‘equalitarianism’ and conservatives’ skepticism about democracy. She illustrated that ‘radicalism’ and ‘right-wing rhetoric’ by pointing out that conservatives noted “marked distinctions between a republic and a democracy and emphasized that the United States had been founded as a republic.” Such an outrage to actually be familiar with formative documents like The Federalist Papers one can assume will remain unassigned in McGirr’s courses. She also complained about libertarians who “express deep dismay with the voting process, seeing it as a means for the majority to coerce the minority.” Which is kind of funny given how often I read now of the intention to force the minority to submit to the vision of the common good developed by the voting majority.
McGirr also consistently pointed out the irrational, apocalyptic “fear of communism” with “elements of conspiracy theory.” Unfortunately for her, I have an increasingly large collection of people operating in California and elsewhere in the US, especially the Ivies, in the time she is writing about who essentially bragged about what they were up to and who they were actively coordinating with. There may have been loony conspiracy theorists in Orange County, but there was also a great deal of transformative activity being pursued.
McGirr’s Harvard undergrads may believe that such fears were nuts and thus that Conservatives are too, but it is sloppy as factual history. Since McGirr regularly mentioned the work of Harvard sociologist Daniel Bell and what he wrote in his 1963 book The Radical Right, I do not think any of the ‘myths’ about the Right and Orange County and the 1960s legitimacy of anticommunism is an accident. It reads under the now known facts like intentional misdirection.
I guess if you want transformative change the needs for plausible myths abounds. Unfortunately again for Professor McGirr I have read and written about Boulding’s 1962 The Great Transition and Bell’s Commission on the Year 2000 report and his view of The Post-Industrial Society and also the World Order Models Project. None of these leave any doubt about the sought little c vision of world federalism and redistribution being sought. Orange Countians, in other words, had real reasons to be paranoid. But today’s students are being taught it is all myths and people creating a “cast of villains” in order to preserve their own “way of life and a set of power relations in American society” that had been beneficial to them.
My favorite myth that McGirr complains of is “the firm belief in the wastefulness of government.” Only an idealogue with a political view of the use of history would dispute the accuracy of that belief. But then again, McGirr admitted she used the term ‘ideology’ as defined by Eric Foner [an admitted radical historian at Columbia where she got her PhD], “who calls it ‘the system of beliefs, values, fears, prejudices, reflexes and commitments–in sum, the social consciousness–of a social group, be it a class, a party, or a section.”
Fascinating that the used definition of ideology is precisely what education, and the myths it is now trying to consciously cultivate, are targeting. In preschool, K-12, college, AND grad school.
With all these myths abounding we can appreciate why actual facts and modelling reality are out. And emotional imagination and online gaming is in.