Why This Teacher Isn’t Afraid of Betsy DeVos

Some opinions are universal. “Bacon tastes good.” “Adam Sandler movies are stupid.” “Oxygen is totally the best atmospheric gas for human respiration.”

Among teachers, another example would be, “Betsy DeVos would be bad as Secretary of Education.” But I don’t agree.

I’m not pro-DeVos, I’m just not anti-DeVos.

As is usually the case, many of the arguments against her are spurious. One meme I saw criticized her for her personal donations to Christian schools. That was it–the menacing specter of Christian schools must clearly be a minus. And the bear thing? Besides being exaggerated by a hostile press, if everybody who’d ever choked under pressure and said something dumb were disqualified for public service, nobody would ever be able to do anything, including me, and including you.

“DeVos will destroy public education!” my colleagues say. I spent last year saying that the similar argument for Trump (“Electing Trump is our last chance to save American from total destruction!”) is likewise misguided: if something–be it education or America itself–is in such sorry shape that one person can easily save or destroy it, then we truly are already doomed. If Betsy DeVos is capable of destroying public education, then public education certainly needs to be destroyed. Let’s scrap this rubble heap and rise from the ashes.

Not that I really think such will be the case. Her administration will not damage public education…but neither will hers or anyone else’s help it.

About a decade ago, during some other school issue-related kerfuffle, I heard a teacher complain about how the right wing wanted to end the Department of Education. She ranted and raved a while, then stopped and shyly asked a group of us, “When was the Department of Education started?” I didn’t have the heart to tell her that this august, esteemed institution harkens all the way back to the days of…Jimmy Carter.

To put it another way, the Department of Education is younger than Tom Brady or Peyton Manning.

This government boondoggle actually does have some significant power to plague teachers with pointless paperwork, but that’s about it.

So, whether DeVos gets in or not, I really couldn’t care less. Somehow, I expect that my classroom will proceed just the same.

 

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These Two Screen Shots Should Come In Handy

These screen shots will make good responses online when people do these two annoying things:

 

When someone claims that their policy view is the “inevitable” one, the one “on the right side of history,” or that their beliefs are the ones that always and automatically represent “progress”–

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When someone randomly spouts emotionally charged political ideas–

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(I look forward to seeing this one used against me…)

A Book of Mormon Story About Refugees

This morning my family and I read Alma 55 in our scripture study. In verses 4-5, the Nephite army is looking for a spy to go undercover among the enemy:

And now it came to pass that when Moroni had said these words, he caused that a search should be made among his men, that perhaps he might find a man who was a descendant of Laman among them.

 And it came to pass that they found one, whose name was Laman; and he was one of the servants of the king who was murdered by Amalickiah.

The assassination referred to there, and the subsequent violence against the king’s servants, who were set up as scapegoats, happens back in chapter 47:

 27 And it came to pass that Amalickiah commanded that his armies should march forth and see what had happened to the king; and when they had come to the spot, and found the king lying in his gore, Amalickiah pretended to be wroth, and said: Whosoever loved the king, let him go forth, and pursue his servants that they may be slain.

 28 And it came to pass that all they who loved the king, when they heard these words, came forth and pursued after the servants of the king.

 29 Now when the servants of the king saw an army pursuing after them, they were frightened again, and fled into the wilderness, and came over into the land of Zarahemla and joined the people of Ammon.

So this servant, Laman, had fled from political turmoil in his land and found welcome refuge among the Nephites. And joined their military. During a time of war. And was trusted to help his new home.

The relevant implications seem pretty clear.

 

 

Perspective and Reaction

Why do so many liberals seem to overreact to events? Perhaps the basic difference in our worldviews hold the answer.

One of the many inherent benefits of conservatism is that, with an emphasis on heritage and tradition, a healthy respect for historical perspective comes automatically built in. Conservatives don’t overreact because we’re wired to play the long game. We base our lives on eternal verities and look for permanent solutions.

Progressive liberals, on the other hand, living in a state of constant flux dedicated only to the obvious here-and-now, have no such frame of reference. When all of world history is merely a monolithic march of one-dimensional oppression, then of course your more “enlightened” views make this era (and you yourself) the most important thing that has ever happened. Therefore, every trendy new issue becomes cosmically crucial.

Every loss becomes the most catastrophic tragedy ever, because as far as your values recognize, today’s event is the only thing that has ever even happened. All dissent becomes a profound personal insult, demanding retaliation of the highest order.

Their cultic obsession with their own myopia defines who they are, and cripples any chance they have of acting rationally in a civilized world.

Just once, I’d like to see a liberal react to an event with a nonchalant shrug and say, “Minor setback. Not a big deal.”

Women’s March

screen-shot-2017-01-21-at-7-42-41-pmEarly this afternoon I drove home from my job in downtown Las Vegas, and passed dozens of women who were mostly dressed up in expensive clothes, smiling from ear to ear, and holding very angry and predictably generic signs.

Honest question here: what exactly are today’s women’s marches about? I’ve seen dozens of their signs all over the news, and I can’t figure out what the point is. Tons of unrelated issues are reflected from one sign to the next. Based on the dominant messages they’re advertising, they seem to want abortion to be legal and sexual assault to be illegal, but isn’t that already the case? What am I missing?

The closest thing I can find to a unified message is a general hate of Trump, because of his admittedly crude comments about women. But if that’s the animating force here, what exactly are these marches meant to achieve? Didn’t they already express opposition to him when they voted for Hillary? What message is now understood that wasn’t already clear last week or last month or last year? And what do these protesters hope to achieve? What will actually become different in the real world because of this? Is there a concrete goal?

Or is this just a glorified pity party? Is this yet another chance for leftists to spout cliches and feel good about themselves? A community commiseration based on vaguely similar negative reflexes? It kind of seems like that. Honestly, sometimes it looks like leftists just have to pretend to rebelling against something because if they didn’t, they’d have no real identity at all.

Conversation With a Man Who Has Trump Derangement Syndrome

This week a friend of a friend posted this video on Facebook, purporting to show that Donald Trump’s supporters are evil and racist and bad and want to commit heinous civil rights abuses.

The following conversation ensued. I reproduce it here to display the total lack of logic and reasoning powers that some of these ideologues have.

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Conversation With A Climate Cultist

Whatever its merits and mistakes, climate change science has certainly created a cult of bandwagon fangirls, eager to advertise their righteousness and stigmatize any heretic. There is now an alchemy of magical thinking online, existing to distinguish the superiority of those who prize moral rectitude over the actual scientific method. I saw a tweet from one such zealous disciple this week whose smugness prompted me to respond. I think the exchange speaks for itself.

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She didn’t answer after that, and I didn’t think pressing the point would have been productive.

Celebrity Death Industry

Do you think that when younger celebrities get a job with an older celebrity, one of their first priorities is to write up a sad blurb about their work together to save for the day when they can finally hit “post” on social media? Are there digital warehouses of memes already set to go for any given celebrity passing?
 
It’s like the obituaries that media outlets keep on file for famous people. It would be surprising if they didn’t. Sorry, just getting a bit cynical about the predictability of the grief industry.

Inmates Running the Asylum

Tweets are pretty ephemeral little things, but this one from a few weeks ago has stayed with me. What a perfect illustration of the ridiculous insanity today. Three screen shots will demonstrate some highlights (or lowlights), though the whole thread has many more of both. Go read the whole thing if you want to be sad.

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May We Take The High Road

Despite the hope implied in the masthead of this blog–“The rebel of the 21st century will be old fashioned”–I don’t know if there’s really a resurgence of conservative culture on the rise, especially since so little of what is coming into power now is actually conservative.

However, if the Right is about to enjoy a cultural moment of influence, some seem keen to abuse it…or at least are enamored of the fear that it might be abused:

Back in 2009 when Nancy Pelosi and the proggies were ramming ObamaCare down our throats someone opined that they were acting like they’d never lose another election. Since then they’ve spent eight years weaponizing the federal government. Now they’ve handed all that power over to The Donald and the Republicans and they’re terrified that we’ll do to them what they wanted Hillary to do to us. They’re looking under their beds and in their closets, terrified they might find the monsters of their own creation. The monsters they thought they’d control.

But monsters, once created, are notoriously difficult to control. You’d think all those English Lit majors would have remembered that, and we should remember it too…

This will be a chance to prove ourselves to posterity. Now we will see if we truly live by values, or if we will succumb to the growing temptation to be populist fascists. For example, I agree entirely with this:

Conservatives have understandably felt for decades that the higher education establishment is indifferent or hostile to their interests. The number of right-of-center faculty has dwindled to the point of disappearance; Republican speakers are regularly shouted down; campus speech codes and harassment policies seem designed to disfavor conservative points of view. Now that the cultural wind is at their backs as never before, some on the Right may be tempted to be vindictive, and to do to college liberals what college liberals have done to them. Ben Carson, currently being considered for a Trump Administration cabinet position, suggested during the primaries that the government should police colleges for liberal bias.

Needless to say, such efforts would be deeply destructive. If Orwellian left-wing speech codes are wrong, then McCarthyist speech codes are wrong as well. If the principle of academic freedom requires the protection of conservative scholarship, it requires the protection of liberal scholarship, too. The aim of genuine defenders of the liberal tradition must be to promote tolerance and open-mindedness, not to replace left-wing academic hegemony with a right-wing version.

Two wrongs don’t make a right, and two wrongs don’t make the Right.

The Electoral College Stops The Hunger Games From Coming True

panemAs usual, we’re hearing about how unfair it is that the popular vote doesn’t always win. *sigh* No, that’s what does keep the system fair.

The Founders cared about making sure everyone’s rights were protected; that’s reflected, for example, in the division of Congress into two houses, chosen in different ways and balancing priorities–the Senate to represent states equally, and the House to represent people based on population.

The Electoral College does the same job. It gives everyone, everywhere, a fighting chance of having their voice heard. Without it–if our elections were purely popular–we would have merely mob rule. Really.

The few dozen largest cities in America have large enough populations that the rest of the country would be completely disenfranchised by their ideologically monotonous monopoly. The Electoral College ensures that nobody is simply a serf serving the giant cultural centers. Look at the red and blue election map in this post, breaking down the country by county. See all those red areas? With no electoral college, they would be forever locked out of public life. Is that what you want?

Compare this to the Hunger Games trilogy. The books never give exact populations for the districts, but clearly the Capitol has far more people–and money–than any other location. In fact, with districts spread out in area and population, the Capitol might have more people than the districts put together.

So the districts serve the Capitol, which keeps them in check by force. Might makes right.

Trying to ban the electoral college is akin to trying to chain up all but those who live in a coastal metropolis, so those redneck rural rubes can forever enable the wealth of the elites. The Electoral College does exactly what the Founders wanted it to do, something liberals should love–it protects the dignity of minority populations.

A Message For Religious Conservatives Who Still Support Donald Trump

Nobody has championed Donald Trump based on his character. The argument I keep hearing is, “This is our last chance to save conservative values…We need to shake up the system…We need to make our voice heard…Trump will fight back…” etc.

Two things:

First, if that scenario is true–if we’re in a position where we need some desperate last ditch effort of a president to save us–then it’s already too late. We are completely and utterly doomed.

Second–and this is specifically for my fellow believers out there–it is wrong to put our trust in the arm of flesh. And yes, that’s exactly what Trump’s religious supporters are doing.

“But we have to be involved citizens and vote,” you say, and I agree, but that does not mean going along with the options presented by a corrupt mainstream. A third party vote or (as I’m doing) a vote for “none of the above” is also a moral choice. I suspect that our efforts as citizens will be most useful on the names and issues at the local levels of our ballots now, anyway.

Yes, issues and policies are important, but none of them–or all of them put together–are as powerful as God. The “wrong” person winning an election or the “wrong” law being passed will not break our country.

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On The Ironic Fallacy of “Diversity” In Education

I just posted a review of Anthony Esolen’s translation of Dante’s Inferno, which I was inspired to read by coming across this excellent essay of his over the summer. I can’t speak highly enough of his translation or of his essay; I feel compelled to share with you at least a three-paragraph excerpt from the essay here. Professor Esolen gives a powerful critique of one modern fad in education, and of its proponents, who would erase the classics and enshrine the contemporary, all in the name of “diversity.”

The material I teach in the first year of DWC spans four millennia, from ancient Babylon to the end of the Renaissance. This year’s entries were originally written in Babylonian, Hebrew, Greek, Latin, Anglo-Saxon, old French, Italian, German, Spanish, and English. We are in Jerusalem with David, on the coast of half-Christian England with the poet of Beowulf, in Rome with Cicero, in Madrid with Calderón, in exile with the Florentine Dante, and in London with Shakespeare. We have studied the Parthenon and Saint Peter’s, Giotto and the stained glass windows of Chartres, Arthurian romance and the poetic philosophizing of Lucretius. It is utterly preposterous to say that we are anything but multicultural. We study cultures, and there are a lot of them, and they diverge far from ours and from one another. A Viking chieftain is not a Roman senator or a Christian friar. Xerxes is not Francis Xavier.

But I know that none of that really counts. One of the student protesters, abashed, has written in our newspaper that even though a Viking is admittedly “diverse” from anybody we may meet on the street now, studying the Vikings does not serve “the larger purpose” of diversity. And thus has he unwittingly given up the ballgame.

He and the students are not really interested in studying cultures other than ours. What counts for them as “diversity” is governed entirely by a monotonous and predictable list of current political concerns. If you read a short story written in English by a Latina author living up the road in Worcester, that counts as “diverse,” but if you read a romance written in Spanish by a Spanish author living in Spain four hundred years ago, that does not count as “diverse.” It probably does not even count as Hispanic. If you pore over the verb system of Old Icelandic so that you can stumble around in the sagas of Snorri Sturluson, that does not count, despite the fact that the sagas are utterly different from any form of literature now written. But if you collect a few editorials written by Toni Morrison, that does count, despite the fact that they are written in English and that you have read hundreds of such.