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Monday, May 02, 2005

A Conspiracy of Dunces

A (short) litany of woes
Here's a very short list of things that seem to be aimed at destroying the American experiment in liberty.
  Public Education
  • Imposition of curricula, programs and administration from distant policymakers and the concurrent diminishing of local control and support
  • Credentialitis: certification of teachers by people who cannot themselves teach ("Schools of Education" etc.)
  • Education fads seemingly designed to create stupid children: "Whole Language" is one such fad that's become an entrenched doctrine even though it clearly creates barriers for learning readers. Damning evidence that it's designed to cripple reading: the numbers of schools of education that still teach it but now insert meaningless references to phonics, a system that does work.  More on Whole Language here. (Search the page for "hieroglyphics.")
  • Parents from a first and second generation of "stupid students" made stupid by stupid education policies and curricula now mostly unable to discern—or simply not caring!—just how horribly their children are being abused by the system.
  • Administrators.   "Those who cannot teach become administrators, so they can then make it more difficult for those who can teach to do so."  It's not enough that public education is burdened with education departments in colleges and universities filled with second- and third-rate minds training teachers in how to make kids stupid; it's not enough that remote policymakers compel compliance to stupid policies; no, public schools must also have local stupid people placing further roadblocks to education in the way of what few teachers can still teach and what few students still want to learn.
Arrgghhh... just see this for more. As the "Letter of Transmittal" for A NATION AT RISK: The Imperative For Educational Reform stated in April of 1983,

"If an unfriendly foreign power had attempted to impose on America the mediocre educational performance that exists today, we might well have viewed it as an act of war. As it stands, we have allowed this to happen to ourselves. We have even squandered the gains in student achievement made in the wake of the Sputnik challenge. Moreover, we have dismantled essential support systems which helped make those gains possible. We have, in effect, been committing an act of unthinking, unilateral educational disarmament."

Can anyone truly say that such abortions as "No Child Left Behind" have made things better in the intervening 22 years?

Mass Media

Is it really just one huge conspiracy?  Watch TV news (if you can stand to).  Now, tell me it isn't almost entirely one-sided, distorted propaganda.  And what of other entertainment offered via the boob tube? Count up the numbers of programs on the big three TV networks that actually make sense and don't assume a completely amoral society.  Let's see... I count one.  And even the "original" Law and Order is marginal at times.  Wander out into so-called "public broadcasting" and cable channels.  Better, a little.  Not, of course, in the PBS world, which is, if anything, more slanted than the Big Three (although I'll grant PBS the Antique Road Show and one or two other bit pieces).  But, sadly, the best of TV is found (sometimes) on Discovery and HGTV, with occasional shows worth watching elsewhere.  The rest?  Feeding decadence, at best.

And are moribund newspapers and pop culture magazines any better?  The question answers itself. And what of other mass media?  Take movies and pop music, for example.  Please.  For the occasional Incredibles
or We Were Soldiers one has to wait through a mass of sludge*.  For the rare " Homeward Bound " or " Mansions of the Lord " (yeh, those are links to sheet music. Blame a teacher/administrator if you didn't have the opportunity to learn to read music in school), we have tons of glurge and worse from MTV—all designed, it seems, to deaden the senses and sensibilities of the listener.
(Rent 'em or buy 'em.  Worth the time/$$)

Now, here I'm absolutely bumfuzzled.  It seems that, perhaps partially as a result of the concerted effort to create a venal, morally corrupt, stupid, uninformed and/or misinformed citizenry, we actually do have a society that's too stupid and venal to know (or care) that congresscritters, bureaucrats and judges (Oh, my!) are castrating their constitutionally guaranteed liberties.  Enlightened self-interest differs from pure greed in several ways, none of which are available to a public that cannot think beyond instant gratification and lacking the knowledge to understand when "their" gummint has become their rulers.  Witness the vile gummint imposition of the Thousands Standing Around: a bureaucracy that does little or nothing to enhance travel security but does much to train a population in meek obeisance to petty bureaucrats.  Whither the much-vaunted American spirit? Down the rabbit hole of public education, mass media propaganda and moral laziness—accedie, to give it its classic name.

Bread and circuses didn't save the Roman Empire, but that's all we get from our politicians today.  A pox on them all. From the deliberately destructive Left to the incompetent and cowardly right: less leadership, more moral laziness and greed.
Of course there's more.  This is just a very short list. Individuals, families, churches, local governments, school districts, etc., all play their part in the Conspiracy of Dunces: short-sighted greed and moral laziness are the central values of these, as well.
Of course it's not really a conspiracy...
It'd be handy if it were.  It's just a collection of fellow travelers, each feeding off the efforts of the others to dumb society down. Who benefits? That's what makes this a Conspiracy of Dunces: it's not really a centrally-coordinated effort, and it's self-defeating, because the end result will be to bring the whole house of cards it is creating tumbling down around everyone's heads.  Dunces, one and all.  That's both us and those who would rule us.
(*Yeh, I know I invoked "wade through" by deliberately saying "wait through".)