Archive for ‘history’

June 26, 2009

‘I’m going to beat you today’

There is no human quality I admire so much as the courageous force of determined persistence. And I learned that from old No. 27:

When he was 16, Bill McCain told his mother, “You won’t ever have to worry about me again.” He left the family farm in rural Randolph County, Alabama, and moved 40 miles away to West Point, Georgia, where he went to work on the night shift in a cotton mill.
You’ve heard of people who worked their way through college? My father worked his way through high school. Most of his cotton-mill pay went for room and board and books — in those days, public-school students in Georgia had to buy their own textbooks — at the school where he became a football star. . . .

Read the whole thing.

May 19, 2009

My high school history teacher

I’m not kidding, OK? John Siegel is a much-beloved history teacher at Lithia Springs (Ga.) High School, and why the alumni administrator of his Facebook fan group chose this photo for the profile, I’m not quite sure. The “Siegel = Sieg Heil” joke was already stale when we used it more than 30 years ago.

At any rate, Ginny at Obi’s Sister lives in Lithia Springs, where her son is enrolled in Der Fuhrer’s AP European history class — final exam essay question: “Slavic untermenschen: Threat or menace?” — and Ginny told me that Our Supreme Aryan Leader had this Facebook page.

Oh, just wait until the Southern Poverty Law Center finds out. “Links and ties,” you know . . .
March 15, 2009

Eutopia. Eusocial. Europe.

by Smitty

Ross, I love you nearly as much as I love your ivory tower. Let’s have some fun with The Case For Small Government:

At bottom, I think the argument suffers from a problem that’s common to both sides in the debates over the desirability of European-style social democracy – namely, the hope that what’s ultimately a philosophical and moral controversy can have a tidy empirical resolution.

Is the Decline and Fall of Europe insufficient for you? Are shenanigans like the Treaty of Lisbon not a good enough indicator? Do you read The Brussels Journal? My wife is German. Maybe I am too lost in anecdotal evidence that the likelihood of success of “European-style social democracy” in the US has been captured here: It Won’t Work. Uless you’re eusocial.

In both cases, there’s an unwarranted hope that the right facts and figures can settle a debate that ultimately depends on the philosophical assumptions that you bring to it.

Hogwash. Facts matter. As does history. If the foundation of your eutopian la-la land rests upon demonstrably bogus assertions about your demographics, WTF good is it? Unless you’re taking a foppish deconstructionist route, that is. Then you can just “feel” something.

I would just deny that they can come close to settling, in any meaningful sense, the debate over how big the American welfare state should be overall, and whether we should copy Western Europe or disdain it.

And why should you? Recall, These United States are still 50 in number. If you have any sort of bully pulpit from your lofty heights, you should argue the Constitution, and the right of states to be as “Massachusetts” as they wanna be, without taking the whole country down roads that historically lead to swamps.

That’s because both the American and the European models of government are successful in purely practical terms, to the extent that purely practical terms exist – which is to say, both models have provided, over an extended period of time, levels of prosperity and stability unparalleled in human history.

PAX ROMANA, anyone? Or are you taking the condescending view that history began in 1636, with the founding of Hah-vuhd?

(Yes, the stresses that Islamic immigration and demographic decline are imposing on Europe are real and serious – but I think it’s too soon to say, with Murray and many on the Right, that “the European model can’t continue to work much longer,” full stop. The end of history may be more resilient than we think!)

Don’t look at reality too long, buddy: someone might steal your lenses. No, you’re right: Geert’s just paranoid and stuff.

And as long as this remains the case, where you come out on the debates over whether we should prefer the continent’s sturdier safety nets to America’s lower unemployment and higher growth rates (or the continent’s more equible provision of health care to America’s lead in health-care innovation, or what-have-you) will ultimately boil down to values as much as it will to what the numbers say.

Back to my European in-laws: that “sturdier safety net” has little empirical meaning. Then again, I’m only talking to a small sample, so you could be right. Not that I seriously think so, just that sounding too certain is rather tacky. Oh, and the wife works in pharma, and is unenthusiastic about the “lead in health-care innovation” you’re touting here. I wouldn’t play a straight libertarian hand, but I would say “less is more” when it comes to regulation. Each new law is another bandage on the patient. Governments rarely, if ever, cut away any of the old stuff. Result: mummy. But we’ll just have to crash the system and then see what you dreamers can do to continue blaming Bush rather than analyze anything.

How much do you prize equality and ease of life? The more you do, the more you’ll favor a European approach to the relationship between state and society. How much do you prize voluntarism, entrepreneurship, and the value of lives oriented around service to one’s family, and to God?

Oh, step up to the plate and just admit it: in Socialism, the state is God. At some point, however, even the biggest Einstein must tire of the failures of idolizing the state.

Eutopia. Eusocial. Europe. You go, dude. There.

February 21, 2009

Perpetual victimhood, permanent grievance

Observing Black History Month with my latest column at Pajamas Media:

With so many problems afflicting America today, especially with the economy in crisis, what purpose was served by [Attorney General Eric] Holder’s remarks? Trillions of dollars in asset value were wiped out by the collapse of the housing “bubble” and the ripple effects of that collapse have shaken financial institutions worldwide to their very foundations. It hardly seems a convenient moment for an angry racial harangue from the nation’s chief law enforcement official.
Particularly odd was that Holder chose to deliver his lecture in the middle of Black History Month, when America’s school children are annually immersed in the subject of race. Originally conceived by pioneering scholar Carter G. Woodson as a means of inspiring black youth by celebrating the accomplishments of overlooked achievers, in recent decades Black History Month has been hijacked by those who view the story of African-Americans not as one of hard-earned progress, but of perpetual victimhood and permanent grievance.
Most Americans over age 30 have little idea how the teaching of history has been perverted by the damaging attitudes Shelby Steele examined in his 2007 bestseller, White Guilt. And because history has been hijacked by grievance mongers and guilt-trippers, most Americans under age 30 have absolutely no idea of what a triumphant tale our nation has to tell . . .

You should read the whole thing. And here’s a half-hour documentary video (a rough-cut of a new production by Nina May scheduled for release next month) that defies Holder’s “nation of cowards” slur:

February 21, 2009

New video: WHO SHOULD PAY?

Based on the documentary Emancipation, Revelation, Revolution, this 30-minute film will be released this spring. (Excuse the formatting issue: The original is in HD letterbox. This is a roughcut edit.)

February 18, 2009

Salute to Chester A. Arthur!

Just in case you missed the big Chester A. Arthur celebration on President’s Day, a hero to bigoted nativist xenophobes everywhere:

The Arthur Administration enacted the first general Federal immigration law. Arthur approved a measure in 1882 excluding paupers, criminals, and lunatics. Congress suspended Chinese immigration for ten years, later making the restriction permanent.

Personally, I’m a Sinophile — they make great fireworks — but in a democratic polity, the majority rules. And who knows? Maybe if Hearst hadn’t ginned up fear of the Yellow Peril, we’d all be half-Chinese by now. (NTTAWWT.) Progressive tolerant types recoil in horror from restrictionist policies, but you liberals should think about this: If the Know-Nothings had had their way — excluding the Irish rabble and other such Papist scum — you’d have been spared Antonin Scalia, Sean Hannity and Bill O’Reilly.

I’m just sayin’ . . .

February 17, 2009

Cultural illiteracy

Professor Paul Gottfried surveys the yawning chasm of ignorance between the ears of the young:

My Western Civ. Students, who claimed to be appalled by the Patriot Act, compared the evil George W. Bush to McCarthy and Hitler. But significantly they couldn’t tell me anything about the Patriot Act, and they certainly couldn’t provide many details about the former junior senator from Wisconsin or the German tyrant.
Cultural literacy forms a unified whole, in the same way that Georges Clemenceau once stated that “La Gauche, c’est un bloc.” And no, I don’t believe that 68% of the American population is sufficiently informed about Darwin to be able to answer the pollster’s question with any degree of honesty. My skepticism results from the fact my college seniors, who are presumably no worse than most, had absolutely no idea about what languages the Bible was written in. Except for natural scientists, the two educational gaps are usually connected. Cultural illiteracy, like the French Left in 1919, constitutes a consistent whole.

Well, Professor, how many know enough French — or enough European history — to know who Clemenceau was, or what he meant? The Tiger might as well have never lived, so far as the average college student is concerned. Nor would you see any flicker of recognition from that average student if you mentioned Black Jack Pershing, or Leon Trotsky or Whitaker Chambers, or Danton or Marat, or Catiline or Cicero, or Austerlitz or Agincourt or Cannae. How many know even a smattering of French or German? How know anything of Latin? And Greek? Don’t even ask.

What is striking is that, even while a greater proportion of America’s young people are now college educated than ever before, the percentage who are actually educated — that is to say, who possess such knowledge as once befitted a person who was considered “well-read” — is probably smaller than it was 50 years ago. However, because the average level of learning has sunk so low, they are ignorant of their own ignorance. They actually believe themselves knowledgeable, because they know as much as any of their classmates, apparently without realizing what absolute ignoramuses their classmates are.

Why is this? For a good 30 or 40 years, at least, the educational trend has been toward the cultivation of self-esteem — All Must Have Prizes — and thus their teachers are afraid to teach them the most important lesson of youth, namely: You don’t know anything, you young savages!

Am I the only one who remembers when teachers used to employ what might be called “Socratic sarcasm.” As early as seventh or eighth grade, I remember teachers who would call on a student and, if the student gave the wrong answer, the teacher would rebuke his ignorance with some droll remark then say, “Who knows the correct answer?” The kid who raised his hand next had better know the answer, and if no hands were raised, the class would be scolded for having failed to study the lesson.

Brutal? Well, after all, the lesson had been assigned, and you had the textbook right there on your desk. If you didn’t know your Doric from your Ionic, whose fault was that? Our teachers didn’t give a damn about our “self-esteem.” They were not hired to flatter us, or condescend to us, or to applaud us for merely showing up and being nice. They were expected to teach us, and we were expected to learn. (Again: Am I the only whose teachers used to remark on the distinction between a pupil and a student?)

I am convinced that the vastness of contemporary ignorance is rooted in this trend toward pedagogical softness, and this in turn reflects the influence of television. As Neil Postman wrote nearly a quarter-century agao in Amusing Ourselves to Death:

[T]elevison’s principal contribution to educational philosophy is the idea that
teaching and entertainment are inseparable.

If I had a time machine, I’d go back to maybe 1966 or ’67 and find the first teacher who thought she was being “innovative” when she said, “Let’s make learning fun!” And after I’d slapped her face a few times to get her attention, I’d deliver a lecture on the disastrous consequences of her idiotic idea.

Learning is hard work, and it only becomes fun when students have mastered the basic skills and developed their knowledge to the level of fluency. The smart ones might get there by fifth or sixth grade, but you’ll never get them there by the teaching-as-entertainment, let’s-make-learning-fun approach. And if they get used to the let’s-make-learning-fun style when they’re in first and second grade, what will become of them when they encounter algebra and diagramming sentences? I’m sorry — you can buy gold-star stickers by the boxcar load, and it ain’t going to make algebra fun, except for that handful of nerds for whom math is fun anyway.

A hunger for knowledge cannot be aroused unless the student is first made to feel ashamed of his ignorance, and the self-esteem theory of education forbids the inculcation of that sense of shame (or any other). Some clever teacher of the so-called “gifted,” ought to try this with an advanced class of high-school history students: Assign Richard Taylor’s Destruction and Reconstruction as a text.

Taylor was an erudite and urbane man, whose memoir is filled with clever allusions to history and literature, so that for example on page 64 one finds a reference to the mauvais quart d’heure of Rabelais, on page 68 he writes of being fixed with a “Parthian glance of contempt,” and on page 71 he uses “claw for claw” (a reference to the Fingal legend of Conan, perhaps by way of Waverly by Sir Walter Scott).

If a teacher were to put Taylor in the hands of a classroom of smart 10th-graders, after having studied for himself all these allusions, then take the time during the class to call attention to these — asking them to research Conan and Parthians and Rabelais, etc. — it might get through to them just what a universe of knowledge is out there beyond their own limited store of learning. These kids know they’re smart, they just don’t realize how ignorant they are, and this is the point to be driven home, if they’re ever going to become truly educated.

UPDATE: My friend and fellow JSU alumni James Joyner decides he wants an argument:

[W]e’re comparing an idealized view of the past with a very different educational system of today. There was never a time when most Americans were well educated in the sense that Stacy describes.

James, I’m not talking about “most Americans,” I’m clearly talking about college graduates, and I’m saying that the average college graduate knows less — in terms of history, geography, literature and languages — than was true 40, 50 or 100 years ago. Granting that college education is more widespread, the real problem is the simulacrum of education, the belief of swinish Philistines that they’re “educated” when they really aren’t. James continues:

We live in a much more complicated world than existed fifty years ago, requiring us to train our young people in a variety of tasks. Most obviously, today’s kids are vastly more technologically literate than those of previous generations.

“Technological literacy,” and yet our best graduate schools in engineering, medicine and science are notoriously full of foreign students. I think if you talked to some engineering teachers, you’d be much less convinced that the decline in the humanities is a result of any succcess in teaching students to be “technologically literate.” James continues:

We give short shrift to — or eliminate entirely — subjects that were once considered “essential” knowledge for educated people in order to teach things considered important today.
I have a PhD and am much more of a reader than most people. But I don’t know Latin or Greek, beyond a handful of words that have crept into our language or scholarly jargon. . . Part of that is because my education has been quite specialized compared to my historical antecedents. There’s a lot more to know than there was in 1950, after all.

And part of it — the very biggest part of it — is the lowering of standards in secondary schools and in collegiate admissions, which have in turn produced lower standards all the way to the top of the system so that, inter alia, Larry Summers was run out of Harvard by a bunch of women’s studies harpies. That a college-bound student should be able to fulfill the foreign-language requirement with Spanish (which I take to be almost the only foreign language that most students learn nowadays) utterly misses the original purpose of the foreign-language requirement, which I won’t even go into.

While I took only a year of high-school Latin (in my junior year, Douglas County High was divided to create Lithia Springs High, DCHS retaining the Latin teacher, and I being forced to switch to French at LSHS) and remember nearly nothing of those cojugations and declensions, still there was some value in learning a smattering of Caesar and Cicero in the original.

Does my friend Dr. Joyner really believe that political science is such a specialized field that, in his 19 years of formal schooling, he could not have squeezed in a few semesters of Greek or Latin? Ah, but since classical languages have been discarded in favor of uno cerveza por favor, we find that teachers of Greek and Latin are almost impossible to find, and the new Dark Ages descend unnoticed.

Am I a nostalgist, idealizing the past? No, I’m a realist, who refuses to euphemize the present. We have lost a culture in which allusions to history and literature were the common language of educated men and gained a culture in which allusions to TV shows and movies are the only such references anyone understands. (“Eric Stratton, rush chairman — damned glad to me ya!“) This is certainly a decline, if not indeed a fall, and I don’t expect that a future Gibbon will miss the point.

November 27, 2008

Hope, faith and Thanksgiving

Michelle Malkin has a nice column today:

In The Year of Bottomless Bailouts, I am most grateful this Thanksgiving for Americans who refuse to abandon thrift, personal responsibility, and self-reliance. When the moochers and entitlement-mongers drive you mad, remember that our nation still serves as home to millions of citizens who do for themselves. Like our Founding Fathers, they are God-fearing people — the ones elitist pundits deride as “oogedy-boogedy” — who will never put their faith in The Cult of You Owe Me.

She tells a nice story. Read the whole thing. Meanwhile, Jules Crittenden writes:

The tide of history remains opposed to tyranny. One of the worst of the modern era, Saddam’s Baathist regime, is out of business. In Gaza, in Burma, in Zimbabwe, in Sudan, in China, in Georgia, in North Korea and Iran, while tyranny still exists, it is widely condemned. For all the rhetoric we sometimes hear, people know where the tyrants live. The values and freedoms nurtured in America and exported, gratis, at the expense of our own nation’s blood and treasure, are the values and freedoms most widely admired, and desired where they are not already emulated in the world.

People seeking grievances to grumble about and evidence to justify discouragement will always find it. Gloom and self-pity are always easier than gratitude and hope. We complain of what we don’t have and neglect to be thankful for the blessings all around us.

It is helpful at times to reflect back on all that God has done for us. There is an old hymn that includes the lyric, “Hither by Thy grace I’ve come.” And those words inspre me as I think back to that moment in August 1987 when I sat in my ’84 Chevette in the parking lot of the Calhoun (Ga.) Times, praying that I would get the $275-a-week sports editor’s job for which I was about to interview.

The day before, I’d been driving a forklift in a warehouse on Fulton Industrial Boulevard in Atlanta when the call came informing me of this opportunity. “Great,” I said. “Just one question. . . . Where in the hell is Calhoun, Georgia?”

Well, it was there that I met and married my wife. Sometimes I recall the prayer I said in that parking lot and think, “Wow. I ought to pray more often.” Surely, I can’t complain of all God’s blessings toward me in the intervening years. Being human, however, I still complain when the hardships come. It is difficult to be thankful for the hardships, to recognize that our disappointments and trials are equally part of God’s plan.

The pilgrims whose 1621 feast we commemorate at Thanksgiving recognized their dependence on God. As William Bradford said of the 102 settlers who arrived off the New England coast in 1620: “What could now sustain them but the spirit of God and his grace?” They had a mystic faith in God’s will, as described in the eighth chapter of Romans:

And we know that all things work together for good to them that love God, to them who are the called according to his purpose. . . .
What shall we then say to these things? If God be for us, who can be against us?

We cannot deserve God’s grace and mercy. We are “sinners in the hands of an angry God,” as Jonathan Edwards said: “There is nothing that keeps wicked men, at any moment, out of hell, but the mere pleasure of God.” Deserving nothing but destruction, then, it behooves us to reflect in all humility upon whatever design God means to accomplish by our preservation, to be grateful to play some part in His purpose, and to understand that it is through no merit of our own that we are called.

If God wishes to destroy us, nothing can save us. Yet if God wishes to save us, nothing can destroy us. This faith requires that we be thankful even for God’s chastisements. Remember that the Israelites were God’s own chosen people, yet they were enslaved by the Egyptians, conquered by the Assyrians, Babylonians and Romans. This was not because God had any particular favor for Israel’s conquerers; rather, those heathen nations were instruments by which He chastised His people, part of a larger design of which the heathen knew nothing.

In everything, God has some purpose, and in nothing do we have cause to complain. Suppose that you lost everything. Suppose disaster came, and you lost your home, your career, every material possession and hope for advancement. Suppose that this disaster not only involved you, but that it also took the lives of many of your closest friends, and even destroyed your community. What would you say in the midst of such an all-encompassing disaster?

The march of Providence is so slow and our desires so impatient; the work of progress so immense and our means of aiding it so feeble; the life of humanity is so long, that of the individual so brief, that we often see only the ebb of the advancing wave and are thus discouraged. It is history that teaches us to hope.

My six children are all healthy, and my beautiful wife is even now preparing a lavish Thanksgiving feast. Alabama is undefeated. With so much to be thankful for, I cannot complain. And history still teaches us to hope.

P.S.: Don’t forget to shop the 2008 Holiday Book Sale!

UPDATE: I see from the comment field that we have been honored with a visit from Jennifer at Double Nickel Farm, who inspired Michelle Malkin’s column. God bless you, ma’am.

UPDATE II: I have to note the bizarreness of the accusation of universalism from an anonymous commenter, who responded to my remark, “In everything, God has some purpose, and in nothing do we have cause to complain,” with this:

if you believed that then you would also believe tyrants are the will of god, and if so, you will find them in heaven, since the will of god cannot be denied, they are not only commanded and obligated but tools of the all mighty
in other words, if you believe these words then Hitler and every single person is in heaven and you must also believe there is no good and there is no evil.

Eh? I very definitely believe in good and evil, and don’t understand why someone would say that an attitude of humility — God’s absolute sovereignty, a divine will beyond our comprehension — should result in the belief that Hitler is in heaven. God is sovereign; evil men cannot escape or defy the will of God. Our puny mortal minds cannot fully comprehend this, but it is so. God’s will appears to us mysterious, and it is our arrogant faithlessness that causes us to question and doubt.

Who are we to judge God? I would ask you to study the Book of Job and contemplate the faithfulness of Job, who refused to complain of the evils that had befallen him, even when his neighbors told him to “Curse God and die.”

God’s existence is objective, and thus independent of our belief. There are many people who seem to think that there is some eternal merit to their particular theological preconceptions, and so they will sit around arguing furiously over these things, as if they could argue their way into heaven. But it seems to me that Ecclesiastes ends with a very important point: Let us hear the conclusion of the whole matter: Fear God, and keep his commandments: for this is the whole duty of man.

It is that “Fear God” part that we are today too guilty of ignoring. Faith may be a difficult thing, but it is a very simple thing.

November 26, 2008

21st-century indoctrination

Mark Steyn:

A few months back, my little boy came home from Second Grade and said to me, “Guess what we learned today?” I said: “Rosa Parks.” He said: “How did you know that?” I said: “Because it’s always Rosa Parks.”

I’d laugh, except it’s no joke. The Historic Victimhood Narrative is virtually the only history or civics taught in American public schools today. “America The Beautiful” has been replaced by “America The Oppressive.” Parents who send their offspring to these government-run indoctrination camps should be prosecuted for child abuse.

UPDATE: Matthew Yglesias offers the excuse that the “greater attention given in recent decades to the contributions of women and ethnic minority groups is about trying to expand the circle of people who feel invested in the national narrative.”

This is what Marxists call “social history” or “people’s history,” and is the sort of thing that leftist academic activists like Howard Zinn have made popular in America. Scouring history for relatively obscure figures who can be made into political heroes — role models for The Movement, as it were — is the sort of propaganda tactic that anyone familiar with the Soviet Union will recognize: “Comrade Pavlik — be like him!”

Children are taught to reverence a pantheon of symbolic personalities whose biographies are didactically rendered in such a way as to ignore whatever fundamental reality might contradict their function as symbols. The student/subject of these thought-control projects develops a conditioned response to the invocation of the holy names. Obversely, social didacticism requires certain demon characters who symbolize oppression and injustice, who are subjected to the same kind of one-dimensional treatment.

The student subjected to such politicized “history” cannot be said to think about history. Rather, he has an autonomic reflex, and reacts instinctively as he has been trained to react.

One of the reasons that women and minority conservatives are so vilified is that they contradict the Left’s narrative of women and minorities as “change agents” on the side of Progress. Our Marxist indoctrinators teach children to reverence a catalog of non-white-male symbolic heroes whose martyrdom and/or courageous protests are exalted as archetypes of progressive activism. This is why college leftists always react so furiously when they encounter a Michelle Malkin or a or Shelby Steele or a Star Parker contradicting today’s latest leftist dogma.

October 20, 2008

Sarah Palin is no Harry Truman

And thank God for that:

Of all the dead Democrats who are now routinely praised by Republicans, none is less deserving of such plaudits than Harry S. Truman. In discussing Sarah Palin’s sudden emergence from obscurity last week, Peggy Noonan wrote: “But there was a man who came from nowhere, the seeming tool of a political machine, a tidy, narrow, unsophisticated senator appointed to high office and then thrust into power by a careless Franklin D. Roosevelt, whose vanity told him he would live forever. And yet that limited little man was Harry S. Truman. Of the Marshall Plan, of containment. Little Harry was big. He had magic.”
Magic, bah! Truman was woefully unprepared for the presidency and was so immensely unpopular that he quite nearly destroyed all the goodwill the Democratic Party had accumulated during Roosevelt’s presidency.

Please read the whole thing.