Wednesday, March 5, 2008

- Grammar School Politics

Since my daughter is in the second grade, I’ve been surprised to learn what an important role identity politics plays in the education of seven year olds. When I was a kid, second grade was mostly about the basics… learning to read, write, and to do basic math. We were developing the basic skills we would need to build on later in our education. And while this was effective for the students, it was making things terribly dull for the teachers, so naturally the lesson plans had to change.

Last month was “black history month” where we celebrate those people in America who have managed to make the most of the fact that there was some ancient grievance visited upon their ancestors. There hasn’t been a slave in America in several generations, but apparently I’m supposed to feel guilty about it even though when the last slave’s chains were cut, my ancestors were barefoot (and probably drunk) in some mud hut in the Connemara hinterland. We were more likely to be slaves than own them. But that was then, and this is now.

This month is “women’s history month” in the New Jersey Public schools, and I wouldn’t be surprised to learn that next month is “gay transgender dwarf history month. That isn’t to say that the historic contribution of non-homosexual transgender dwarves has been over played; after all, you don’t hear all that much about them. But with every splinter victim group staking claim to its own slice of American history, I see no reason to limit it. We can’t even say that it’s only minorities who are getting their slice of time because women are in fact, a slight majority.

So anyway, since its women’s history month, all the second graders are putting together little projects about famous women in American history, and guess who my little darling was assigned to. That’s right… my beautiful and innocent 7 year old daughter has been assigned to do a report on Hillary Clinton, and her great contribution to American history. This represented more of a problem for my wife and I than you would guess at first glance.

I don’t have any real problem with the Clinton’s personally. I think Bill is probably a lot more fun than Hillary, but I certainly have my dour moments too so who am I to judge. Since they’re politicians, I think they’re probably of fairly poor character and are basically dishonest, but probably not a whole lot more or less than any other politician. In short, I think they are part of the problem rather than part of the solution, but I could hardly send my seven year old to school with a report that says so.

You see, my wife and I discussed it, and what we decided is that we’re not going to put our 7 year old daughter in a position to be subject of some teacher’s political wrath, just because we disagree with her politics. We’re going to raise our daughter to believe that effect is more important than intent, and that logic and reason are a better basis for social policy than self congratulation. And since we will raise her with these (and our other values) she will be highly unlikely to be a Liberal. But the vast majority of public school teachers are liberals.

So rather than tell our daughter the things we really believe are the truth about Mrs. Clinton, we struggled to find “true statements” that were less politically charged. For instance, one of the questions my daughter had to answer was, “How has your woman helped people.” We couldn’t very well send our second grader to school with a report that says, “Hillary Clinton helped America by being so unpopular that she failed to nationalize the entire medical industry.” Or “Hillary Clinton helped America by successfully trading in Cattle futures”. Or “Hillary Clinton helped America by being a Marxist in college.” These things wouldn’t fly.

Instead, my wife came up with the idea the she “helped America by being the first lady for 8 years”. It’s the kind of thing that’s more on a second grader’s level, and I don’t think she specifically hurt the country by being first lady (people voted for Bill afterall) so as far as the truth goes, I think that’s close enough. But it really illustrated what a terrible idea the whole “woman’s history month” is, and how ridiculous it is to let second graders do this kind of work in the first place.

You can’t explain to a second grader that Hillary Clinton represents the pinnacle of totalitarian and fascist sentiments and has only been successful at all through duplicity and deceit. You can’t say that she married for politics, and stayed married for political power. And the reason you can’t say these things is because it isn’t what the teacher wants to hear. And if we had sent her to school with a report that did say those things, then she wouldn’t understand why her teacher doesn’t like her anymore. Or why her grades always seem to be lower than everyone else’s no matter how she tries or whatever other petty malignant tactic the teacher might have for punishing our child for the beliefs of her parents.

I know we’re probably making too much of this. I’m sure my daughter’s teacher cares a lot more about her pension than she does about politics. But since it’s my daughter on the line, I don’t feel like I can take that chance. I’m happy to duke it out with anyone on any political topic they can conceive. I’ll even volunteer for debates if you can’t find someone to argue against the liberal position. But if the rules of the battle are that you hit my child once for every time I hit you, then I’m not interested.

The teachers of the New Jersey Public school system may be very good. But with a union like theirs in place, we’ll never know. What we do know, is that they have the power and authority to make things very tough on our kids if we don’t tow the line, and thanks to the NEA there is little we can do about it. We have no choice but to take it. You can catch a grammar school teacher in the act of sodomizing a 7 year old boy on his desk school, and that teacher will be suspended with pay.

What all this really means is that they can stuff our children’s heads full of whatever silly political nonsense they feel is appropriate, and there is nothing we can do about it. They are thoroughly shielded the Byzantine rules cobbled together by their union, at the expense of everyone but their members. And because of that, my second grader is trying to figure out what Hillary Clinton has done to help America, when half the people in the country couldn’t answer that question either.

I’m not going to pick a fight with someone who will only punish my child instead of me. But damn… I’d really like to.

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