Saturday, October 25, 2008

Ultraconservative Parents Just Don't Understand

I have an aversion to writing anything too personal, or revealing the details of the lives of people close to me. The way I was raised, and what I believe to be correct as an adult, is that respect is shown in many ways, discussing someone's most intimate secrets, and identifying them by name-or God Forbid, posting their pictures is wrong in more ways than I can begin to express. So I'm going to tell you a story, however, certain details will be purposely vague.

With that caveat, I have a very close, old friend, my best friend, who yesterday made me want to reach through the phone and throttle her. I am very close to her husband as well,and I often want to choke him. We have a long,long history, we all met in college. I'm her sorority sister, she pledged under me, and I was in their wedding. These two are very Catholic, family-oriented, America-First type patriots, who live in semi-rural South Jersey. She is white, and he pretends that he is-most people don't know his father was Asian. He sees embracing conservatism as his ultimate identification as white. Except he's not-though nobody knows that.

I have always known they were on the conservative side of the political spectrum, so-called values voters, who voted Republican largely because of their opposition to abortion. While I find single-issue voters maddening, I understood how much their religious convictions mean to them. Fine. Didn't like it, didn't agree with it, but, well, that's their worldview, their core belief system. I was not going to hector them about their views, especially since they pretty much left me alone about mine. We rarely discussed politics.

That was then, this is now.

Perhaps I have changed has she, and he has certainly become so much harsher, more authoritarian in his views. Something very strange seems to have happened to them during the Bush years.

They have two children, and one is having difficulties in school. From what my friend says, it sounds like an ADD problem, and a severe one at that. But they don't really know. Whatever it is, her son is not comprehending, not processing information at a normal speed. It seems she noticed this a while ago, but they were reluctant to have him labeled, and assumed the school would step in, and have him tested if it was really a problem. She had no idea until his teacher told her, that he will only be tested quickly if the parents demand it.

In an angry rant, she said she couldn't believe that the teacher told her if she asked for it the testing would be done in a year, but if his parents make the request it will be done in a timely fashion, maybe in a week or so. And when she asked why, she was told No Child Left Behind. She couldn't believe it, and I told her of course it was true. And, I couldn't help myself, I reminded her I had been telling her about the effect NCLB would have on public education for years to come.

Apparently, she disregarded what I had to say as more of my misguided liberal ideas, not as a fact. Schools are much less likely to spend the money to test a child these days. NCLB is unfunded, and the constant standardized testing is expensive. And schools will be expected to have ALL students at a "proficient" level by 2014. Special Ed kids are a liability to their schools who will lose funding if they have too many, because the standards are the same for them as for a "normal" child. So if these kids are removed from these schools, in order for the normal kids to keep their scores are we returning to "separate but equal" for students with disabilities? I seem to recall that Brown v. Board of Education said that was not possible.

My friend didn't like that answer, and babbled that it wasn't meant to hurt her son. (Just to marginalize other people's kids, huh?) Just to improve the failing schools and make the US even better, and more competitive with all those Asian countries, and besides that's recent, it hasn't been in effect that long!

Nope. Signed by Bush January 8, 2002.

Signed by the man she voted for twice. I did not say this but she knew what I was thinking. And she didn't want to hear it. She is frustrated that the teachers had not noticed more about how he was learning, or rather, not learning. I told her to lay off, because when teachers are required to only teach to the test they aren't able to truly bond with their students, and recognize that the child is only regurgitating what he or she needs to know for the damn test.

I worked for a private teaching/tutoring company part-time for a while when I first came to NY. I saw so many children with comprehension problems that it could be termed an epidemic. They can read the words all right, but have no idea what it all means, no critical thinking is involved in the school work they are given. And unfortunately, no one really has the time to recognize this until they are at middle school level.

I have told her this all before...and yet my conservative friend still fails to see how non-educators are making education policy that has schools run on a business model. She got angry that her son's situation is all connected to how she chooses to vote. She is so busy, and rarely keeps up with current events properly. She told me Sarah Palin really can see Russia from her home. That Fox isn't any more biased than the rest of the news organizations out there. And that Obama is influenced by his Muslim values, and by the Anti-American hate at his church. And that if you don't like it here you should just leave.

And yet...she feels qualified to vote because it is her right, though she is not a political person, and thinks no one listens to each other and everyone is wrong. I can't fathom this disconnect between Republican fantasies, and actual reality. Even when the reality is damaging to one's own child. When life got tough for me I became more liberal. And yet the more they struggle, the more right-wing this couple becomes.

What was that Malcolm X said about chickens coming home to roost?

Tuesday, October 21, 2008

I Understand Now What Made My Grandma Communist in the 1930s

I stumbled across this diary on Kos discussing this column by the New York Times' Chris Hedges. It is called The Idiots That Rule America. I immediately clicked to the site, and my jaw dropped. Especially when I got to this part.

Andrew Lahde, the Santa Monica, Calif., hedge fund manager who made an 870 percent gain last year by betting on the subprime mortgage collapse, has abruptly shut down his fund, citing the risk of trading with faltering banks. In his farewell letter to his investors he excoriated the elites who run our investment houses, banks and government.

“The low-hanging fruit, i.e. idiots whose parents paid for prep school, Yale, and then the Harvard MBA, was there for the taking,” he said of our oligarchic class. “These people who were (often) truly not worthy of the education they received (or supposedly received) rose to the top of companies such as AIG, Bear Stearns and Lehman Brothers and all levels of our government. All of this behavior supporting the Aristocracy only ended up making it easier for me to find people stupid enough to take the other side of my trades. God bless America.”

In short, Democracy as we know it has morphed into Oligarchy thanks to the Industrial Revolution, and the dearth of American Intellectual Curiosity. There's a sucker born every minute, and two to take 'em should not be the secret governing philosophy of any government, and certainly not one born of revolution. A revolution sparked by economic and legislative tyranny, by people who were tired of being over taxed second-class citizens. There should be no power behind the throne in a country without one. And isn't the man behind the curtain always a fake wizard?

The underlying truth in this well-written and quite angry column is that it is an indictment of both American education and American parenting. The oligarchs running our financial institutions into the ground had the benefit of a very expensive education, but was it actually a good one? Were they taught the concept of the Social Contract and the Public Good? Were they taught that economics are not an abstract science but something that has an impact on the lives of real people? Do they know that Mussolini originally wanted to call Fascism, Corporatism? Do they understand what Fascism actually was, or how dangerous a populist backlash can be? An uneducated and clueless mob of common people is no better than an uneducated and clueless elite driving a country into a ditch.

America has always fallen short of it's promise. My grandfather's family fought in the American Revolution, Askins, Latimores, Morrisons, Newmans fill colonial graveyards all across upstate NY and, Massachusetts, and New Hampshire. I am sure they would be horrified to know the noble cause they gave the ultimate sacrifice for turned out like this.

Saturday, October 18, 2008

Bill the Cat, oops, I mean McCain...

Call me shallow, but I never want to see pictures like this from a potential President of The United States again. After eight years of Bush, I want some dignity restored to the office.