Wednesday, March 09, 2005

Three Stooges

Again, Chuck Gregory, James Kraft, and Glen Williams are locals who write in opposition to me.

There they go again. Hear no evil, see no evil, and speak no evil. Chuck Gregory can’t abide hearing anything that contradicts his own worldview, so I’m a neo-conservative lackey. James Kraft is unwilling to look at what’s actually going on, so I’m just wrong. Glen Williams doesn’t like strong language, so I’m a "provocateur" and the facts I present can be disregarded.
According to Chuck, I have failed to "put into context the Democratic opposition to the 1964 Civil Rights bill." Chuck explains that "the institutionalized Democratic racism which was displayed in Congress up until 1968 was caused by the Union triumph in the Civil war." I want to make sure that I understand this, Chuck, the Confederacy loses in 1865 and it takes 103 years to work out the frustration? Chuck goes on that"faced not only with the loss of the war but also with the prospect of freed, educated, politically powerful and property-owning Negroes [etc] white Southerners expressed their fear and hatred in whatever ways they could." Chuck offers not one piece of documentation to bolster what amounts to his opinions on how the events played out. Nor does Chuck offer any evidence of Republicans "show[ing] the same attitudes toward minorities that the Democrats displayed forty years ago." Chuck, you may not like it, but history shows quite clearly that the Democrats have failed minorities and has held them in slight regard since the party’s inception. Chuck’s thesis is that the Republican Reconstruction created Democratic racism. I fail to see how that accounts for the historical fact that those who would become southern Democrats held American independence hostage in the 1770s (100+ years before the Civil War) in order to keep black slavery, thus insisting that all men are not created equal. Just so we’re all clear about this, Chuck doesn’t deny Democratic racism, he just puts it in context. Chuck suggests that "in today’s Congress...the Republicans show the same attitudes toward minorities that the Democrats displayed forty years ago." It’s easy to say Republicans are racists, Chuck, but I challenge you to prove it. Some years ago, Republicans soundly ostracized David Duke when he ran for national office, but Democrat Senator Robert Byrd is re-elected to Congress time and again, despite his humble origins as a recruiter for the Ku Klux Klan. Chuck, you don’t have to like history, but don’t try to revise it to suit your political goals, that’s just dishonest.

Mr. Kraft suggests that I’ve been "parroting the typical Republican anti-public education rhetoric" when I point out the problems that are clear to everyone. Was I mistaken or was it some worthy educational movie and not Polar Express that a class of Springfield students went to see? Were the numbers in the Town Report more "Republican anti-public education rhetoric" or did I misquote them? What exactly was the educational benefit to the Kwanzaa candles that Park Street Kindergartners made? Since when is quoting non-partisan documentation and respected education researchers "Republican anti-public education rhetoric?" It is a crying shame that Mr. Kraft won’t respond to the specifics that I pointed out but rather chose to hide behind the ‘typical Democratic rhetoric.’ Mr. Kraft, perhaps you should be less concerned with my credibility and more concerned with the credibility of the school system, or are you happy to "sit back and watch" that approach zero?

Glen Williams says I take "great license with logic, ‘facts’, and imaginings," but like Chuck and Mr. Kraft he doesn’t address the issues I raise. Did I imagine the international test scores of our students? Is the relationship between teacher and teaching illogical? Glen, I must say I’m very surprised at you. You seem to have quite a literary background yet you are stumped by how to "respond to the review of a critic who has not seen the movie, but creates his own version of what might have happened." The response is to describe what really happened or suggest an alternative version, but you don’t do that, possibly because you believe my suspicion was probably correct? Similarly, rather than address the issue I raise, you launch into an ill-conceived Bush-bash. Glen, I hate to break the news to you, but a majority of the country thought Bush did well enough to warrant being re-hired and (in case you missed it) current events throughout the world are proving Bush was right. I feel like a broken record, but it amazes me how often I have to repeat this: Glen, you may think I use a "bombastic approach," but that doesn’t excuse you from actually addressing the facts that I raise. You put ‘facts’ in quotes early in your response, but you don’t show how my facts are questionable. Exactly which numbers from the Town Report did I misquote? What facts did I get wrong or mis-interpret? "Teachers deserve respect" is not a "mindless bromide" and you only display your "professional" arrogance when you point out the "incredible number of wonderful professionals [who] retire without applause or thanks from a community that should have known better." Why should they get more plaudits than the town clerk, bank teller, grocery clerk, or secretary? Perhaps you don’t get it, Glen, but our children are not the best-educated kids in the world, they’re not even the second or third best. When do we recognize that problem? When do we fix that problem? How can we do either without finding out who and what is responsible? Now, Glen, you can go right on suggesting that "reasonable debate" means only ideas that agree with your own, but many people just don’t think the public school system is working. You are free to disagree with me, as you are free to question my logic and facts, but do it. Show me where I’m wrong, quote your sources, document your positions. What is most remarkable is that you don’t once factually contradict anything I’ve said.

Glen, you call for "a less bombastic approach," but I notice that you don’t hesitate to use bombast: "everything [you] know, think, believe and act upon, are universal truths," I yell "FIRE in a crowded theater," I ‘m a "voracious pundit provocateur," who uses "incendiary taunts," and "mindless bromides." In fact, Glen, in your 16-3/4 inch meandering you actually discuss education in less than 1-1/2 inch and even that is simply more "anecdotal" story-telling. I have anecdotes too, like the special-ed teacher I assisted who ordered me to falsify progress reports to insure his employment over summer vacation or the teacher who failed a student because she disagreed with him in class. However, anecdotes are subjective, so I don’t use them, instead I prefer objective facts. If you don’t like my facts, then don’t just put quotes around the word, actually have the intellectual honesty to contradict them. If you don’t like my conclusions, then provide alternatives. If you don’t like my interpretations, provide your own. Logic dictates that if one student fails, he probably didn’t do the work, but if most or all students fail then, logic suggests, the system didn’t do the work. Where’s the flaw in that logic, Glen? You were a teacher, Glen, so I understand your reticence to blame the system, but there are quite a few who aren’t. At least 38% instead of criticizing the system quietly send their children to private schools.

A little honesty goes a long way. If particular people want to delude themselves and suggest nothing is wrong with public education - fine, that’s their business. It becomes everyone else’s business when those people demand we all do the same. I deeply love learning and despise dishonesty. When I see failure praised as success, when I see political agenda supplanting public education, when I see angst and whining presented as reasoned discourse, I will speak up.


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