Uncommon Sense

politics and society are, unfortunately, much the same thing

Black people lost ground under Obama

Host Tavis Smiley argues black people have lost ground in every major economic category over the last ten years.
April 6, 2016

https://video.foxnews.com/v/embed.js?id=4834072253001&w=466&h=263

Democrats, economy, government, politics, president, public policy, reform, tragedy, unintended consequences

Filed under: Democrats, economy, government, politics, president, public policy, reform, tragedy, unintended consequences

How a committed socialist gave up the faith

original article: The Bolivarian God That Failed
February 1, 2019 by Clifton Ross

The day after Venezuela’s National Assembly voted to declare its president, Juan Guaidó, interim President of the Republic, I received a text from a former friend. “If the U.S. topples Vz [Venezuela],” he wrote, “I will hold you responsible.” I would have been happy to accept this responsibility had I done anything important enough to deserve it. But the idea was absurd and he knew it. If the Venezuelan regime falls—and I hope that it does—it won’t even be possible to credit (or blame) the United States. It is the Venezuelan people who finally are taking their destiny in hand and rejecting an intolerable status quo.

The message was not a serious attempt to apportion responsibility for Venezuela’s current upheaval; it was an attempt to shame me for my treacherous betrayal of the Bolivarian cause. An early supporter of the Revolution, I had traveled to Venezuela in 2013 to cover the April presidential elections. By the time I returned to the US, I was disillusioned and depressed. I decided I needed to start writing and speaking about what I had seen there. In an article I wrote for the radical magazine Counterpunch around that time, I argued that “the so-called ‘Bolivarian Revolution’ is bankrupt: morally, ideologically, and economically,” and I asked what we, as leftist solidarity activists, should do in response. “Should we continue to make excuses for incompetence, corruption, and irresponsibility and thereby make ourselves accomplices?” I asked. “Or should we tell the truth?”

I had resolved to tell the truth. Having been so wrong about something so consequential, I felt it was the least I could do. By then, Venezuela was already in a terrible mess. Many of those I had helped to convince of the possibilities offered by Bolivarian socialism were deeply suspicious of the mainstream media and deserved to hear what was going on from a writer they trusted. But, as it turned out, the people I wanted to reach didn’t want to hear such things. And the people I asked to publish my articles didn’t much want me to write about them either. As a result of my voltafaccia, former comrades and friends contacted my editors and publishers in (occasionally successful) attempts to have my articles spiked. I was denounced and slandered online and in print. Phone calls and emails to people I had thought of as friends now went unanswered. On those occasions when I encountered one of them in public, they looked the other way. Abruptly, I found myself excommunicated, and people I’d known for 30 or 40 years made it clear that they no longer wanted to be part of my life.

*     *     *

I’d originally come to California from the Bible Belt in the mid-’70s in search of enlightened neighbors. I knew what it was to live an isolated life. It had been lonely on my father’s farm in Southern Oklahoma. I had endured farm life for five years but, having grown up in the military, I longed for the company of diverse, worldly-wise people one often found among military brats. Having become a Christian a few years before, I hoped Berkeley would offer a deeper faith than I’d found in fundamentalist churches.

I hitchhiked west and in Berkeley I joined the “radical Christian” community of the House Church of Berkeley that had grown out of Christian World Liberation Front (CWLF). From the margins of that community I gradually found my way, through liberation theology, into the secular Left. For nearly a decade I did solidarity work with the Sandinista Revolution until that process came to a halt when its “vanguard” Sandinista National Liberation Front (FSLN) was removed from power in the elections of 1990.

Following the collapse of communism, I ended up with the other “dead-enders” in Berkeley, scratching around in the depleted soil of radical politics for any worm of hope that might emerge. Those were desperate years. I soon hitched a ride on the Redwood Summer bandwagon, the joint IWW (Industrial Workers of the World, “Wobblies”) and Earth First! project to protect the last stands of old growth redwoods in Northern California from logging companies. I played a very minor role in that campaign, printing the flyers announcing the actions, but I was quickly drawn into working in the IWW. I was briefly an editor for the Bay Area Branch Bulletin and a co-editor of the Industrial Worker, and then I spent ten years in an IWW union job shop (New Earth Press) where my partner and I did a lot of ecological printing for local community organizations.

After we sold the business, I went to graduate school at San Francisco State University for a couple of very dismal years in academia. Then, after graduation, I spent the summer of 2004 in Nicaragua interviewing ex-Sandinistas who were now in opposition to the FSLN, the “glorious revolutionary vanguard,” which had been reduced over time to the status of a populist party serving the caudillo (strongman) Daniel Ortega. During the years of the Nicaraguan Revolution (1979-1990), I had translated and published the revolutionary poetry and writings of Sandinista militants—mostly farmers, low-ranking militia members, and even young children. As I was a poet, it seemed appropriate work to help spread the word about a process I found hopeful, and endangered by the hostile policies of the Reagan administration. I knew very little at the time of the Sandinistas’ responsibility for generating the war that would eventually tear their country apart. Most of us on the radical Left distrusted the media, and it was only recently that I returned to that period (in Chapter 11 of my 2016 memoir) to uncover details I had ignored during the years of that brutal civil conflict.

Foremost among the poets I’d translated during the years of the Sandinista Revolution was Ernesto Cardenal, a revolutionary priest and the Sandinista Minister of Culture. Cardenal and other “liberation theologians” were preaching a synthesis of Marxist revolutionary ideology and Christian theology, and they were my inspiration back then. By 2004, I no longer identified with Christianity, and my faith in Marxism was also in doubt. Nevertheless, I still considered myself some kind of socialist, and I thought Cardenal might be able to reassure me that there were embers of socialism still burning somewhere in Latin America. He duly obliged. Towards the end of our interview, when I asked him to name the projects in Latin America today which gave him hope, he didn’t mention (as I thought he would) the Zapatistas. “The Bolivarian Revolution,” he announced. President Hugo Chávez was doing some very interesting things down in Venezuela, he thought, and he encouraged me to visit and see for myself.

So, that December, eager to learn more, I flew down to Venezuela on Christmas break from Berkeley City College where I had been working as an adjunct English instructor. I immediately fell in with like-minded leftists in the small Andrean city of Mérida, who introduced me to a good part of the Bolivarian community there. I was so inspired by what I found that I decided to take a year off from teaching so I could follow the Bolivarian process first-hand.

It is as difficult as it is uncomfortable to enter into a previous state of mind from a later, more “evolved” or developed state. I don’t like to admit that I once believed Jesus rose from the dead, but I did. I also believed that socialism would make everyone brothers and sisters and end what my comrades and I called “capitalist oppression.”1 The available scientific and statistical evidence (not to mention common sense) weighs strongly against belief in bodily resurrection from the dead. History has delivered a verdict of comparable finality about socialism. This verdict is routinely dismissed on the grounds that only corrupted iterations of socialism have been tried; if socialism is designed to unite mankind, but all previous versions of socialism have failed to do so, then it follows that true socialism has yet to be successfully attempted.

Rarely do true believers stop to consider that there may be something wrong with the logic of socialism itself. In his 1993 book Post-Liberalism: Studies in Political Thought, the English philosopher John Gray wrote that Soviet socialism forced its subjects into a “vast Prisoner’s Dilemma, with each being constrained to act against his own interest and, thereby, directly or indirectly, to reproduce the order (or chaos) in which he is imprisoned. Thus Soviet subjects are compelled to compete with each other in climbing the rungs of the nomenklatura, pursuing the ordinary goods of life by party activism or, in extremis, by informing or denouncing one another, and so renewing daily the system that keeps them all captive.” These are not exactly optimal conditions for building community.

By 2004, I was already well aware of what Marxist-Leninist socialism had done to the twentieth century. So why did I fall for the socialism that Hugo Chávez proposed in Venezuela? The reasons were part push, part pull. The push came from the American invasion of Iraq less than two years earlier. After a rapid battlefield victory, the news from the Middle East seemed to be growing more dire by the day. A little over a month before I left for Venezuela, allegations began to emerge that the US military were committing war crimes in Fallujah. Surely a better way than this remained possible? As I wandered around Venezuela that December I was desperate for an alternative I could believe in, no matter how fragile.

The pull was what Hugo Chávez was proposing. He acknowledged the problems of  twentieth century socialism, and claimed to be offering something different—the Bolivarian version of “twenty-first century socialism.” This would be the “socialism with a human face” and quite unlike the repressive, totalitarian bureaucratic behemoth of Marxist-Leninism. As Chavista Gregory Wilpert insisted in his 2007 book Changing Venezuela by Taking Power, under Bolivarian socialism “ownership and control of the means of production must be collective and democratic.” Cooperatives were to play a large part in this and, after 2006, so would the local communal councils.

The money from the 2004 oil boom had saved Chávez from a recall referendum as he distributed the revenue flooding into the country among his followers. In this way, Chávez was able to fund his “revolution” from 2005 onwards. He ensured that the oil wealth would bypass the government, which he characterized as “corrupt” and (naturally) “counter-revolutionary.” Instead, money would be funnelled directly into a non-state-controlled corporate entity known as Fonden, the National Development Fund, over which, of course, Chávez personally presided. Fonden then parceled money out to cooperatives and the so-called “Missions” to the poor. During the oil boom, petroleum prices went from $10 a barrel to $100 and peaked at around $150 over the course of a decade. Given the astonishing amount of wealth generated, Chávez had a lot of money to throw at his pet projects. And, predictably, as the wealth trickled down, corruption increased since everyone had to get his or her piece of the patronage.

The cooperatives and community councils were among the many promising and inspiring initiatives dreamed up by Chávez in the early years of the boom. I witnessed these developments and documented them in my feature film, Venezuela: Revolution from the Inside Out. There really did appear to be great enthusiasm for these initiatives at the grassroots, especially as Hugo Chávez pushed them forward with massive funding. I quickly joined the chorus of supporters, first as invited poet to the Second World Poetry Festival of Venezuela in July 2005, then as a freelance (that is, unpaid) journalist for various left-leaning websites. When Chávez appeared on the scene, there were under 2000 cooperatives in the country. Once he came to power, that number skyrocketed to nearly 200,000, and I was there to document their ups and downs. I attended a few community council meetings and “political formation” training sessions, as well as a number of oil-funded projects like community kitchens, cultural events, and community development programs. It felt like something was really happening and that a fairer society was being built.

After the year I spent living in Venezuela (2005-2006), I returned as frequently as my schedule would allow, sometimes twice a year. Between 2008 and 2011, however, I became preoccupied with traveling across Latin America and conducting interviews with social movement activists for a book entitled Until the Rulers Obey that would be published in 2014. During that time, I was forced to become a “generalist” and didn’t have much time available to keep a close eye on what was happening in Venezuela. Nevertheless, from people who were watching, and from what I saw on my two visits there in 2011, I gathered that the situation was taking a bad turn. As even supporters were pointing out a few years later, by 2007 only about 15 percent of the 184,000 remaining cooperatives were active. If the distinction between earlier socialism and the Bolivarian version was that in the latter the “ownership and control of the means of production must be collective and democratic,” the new version wasn’t faring well at all.

Big questions began to arise about the financing of the community councils. Critics charged that these organizations were simply instruments that Chávez (and then Maduro) used to fund their supporters while denying access to the opposition. It was classic populism in the style of the Mexican PRI, which Mario Vargas Llosa once called “the perfect dictatorship.” By 2008, Chávez had suffered his first electoral defeat in a referendum that he had hoped would drive his socialist agenda forward. In response, he adopted a new approach to building twenty-first century socialism, and it looked very much like the twentieth century variety: nationalization of industries followed by the expropriation and redistribution of wealth and property. The “Bolivarian Revolution” was starting to look like any other rentier or petro-state—burgeoning corruption, a politics of clientelism, and a growing gap between the elite in control of the state (and, of course, the oil revenues) and the increasingly desperate mass of people at the bottom.

When the Arab Spring swept Gaddafi from power, I argued with my Venezuelan friends and felt the beginnings of a great divide opening up between us. I didn’t like the company Chávez was keeping—Gaddafi, Putin, Hezbollah, etc.—but neither was I ready to denounce him and his project as a fraud. Meanwhile, as my wife and I compiled the interviews with the social movement activists in Latin America, we began to notice themes and threads that confirmed what Raul Zibechi had told us when we visited him in Montevideo, Uruguay in the spring of 2012.

Zibechi was an astute analyst of Latin American politics with a focus on social movements. He explained that the so-called “Pink Tide” of leftwing governments that had risen to power on the wave of the commodities boom were in fact following the prescription of Robert McNamara, the former president of the World Bank and architect of the Vietnam War under Lyndon Johnson. In this scenario, moderately progressive governments were far more useful than their rightwing homologues to the world elite, because they provided a buffer between the transnational corporations and the social movements protesting the impact of resource extraction on communities and the environment. The testimony of our interviewees seemed to bear out Zibechi’s thesis. But surely this couldn’t be true of the more “radical” processes, like the one unfolding in Venezuela?

As I was writing the introductions to the Nicaraguan and Venezuelan chapters of our book, I investigated further, and what I discovered in the academic literature and reports by investigative journalists on both countries confirmed my doubts. By the mid-1990s, I’d already given up on the FSLN reforming itself. When I met Ernesto Cardenal again in 2004, he argued that there was no hope of any positive change from the “Ortega dictatorship.” My introduction to the Nicaragua chapter of our book was therefore fairly easy to write, since the direction the country was going under the Ortega mafia seemed clear. I quoted Dennis Rogers’s description of the Somoza dictatorship the FSLN had overthrown and remarked that it also described the present Ortega regime quite well: “A venal oligarchy run by a small elite satisfied to promote a form of what might be termed ‘hacienda feudalism.’” But Venezuela? Chávez? I had grown more critical, but I still believed in Chávez. As so many Chavistas in Venezuela had reassured me, “Chávez is clean, but all those surrounding him are corrupt.” This was a cult of personality—a One Man faith.

*     *     *

On the afternoon of March 5, 2013, I’d just finished another draft of my introduction to the Venezuela chapter when the phone rang and a friend told me that Hugo Chávez had died. I wrote a eulogy for Counterpunch that now, nearly six years later, I find embarrassing. I then decided to go back down to Venezuela for the elections. On the flight I caught up on my reading, including a fascinating biography of Hugo Chávez written by two well-known Venezuelan journalists, and some analyses of the massive problems in the Venezuelan economy, including the missing $29 billion dollars from the Fonden budget over which Chávez had presided.

Chávez, in the style of Latin American autocrats from time immemorial, had hand-picked his successor, Nicolás Maduro. Maduro was a fairly hard-core Leninist with a soft spot in his heart for Sai Baba, the Hindu guru-huckster accused of child molestation before he died in 2011. Compared to Chávez, Maduro is wooden and utterly lacking in the warmth and charm of his political “father.” But he had close relations with Cuba and was part of Chávez’s trusted inner circle and, most importantly, he was Chávez’s choice. Y punto, end of discussion.

Of the difficulties I faced over the next few days attempting to enter the country and cover the April 2013 presidential election between Maduro and Henrique Capriles, I have written elsewhere. Suffice it to say that I wasn’t granted entry until the day after the elections. Even then, due to the massive nationwide protests, I only managed to get to Mérida thanks to the generosity of oppositionists who gave me a ride. Over the course of the trip, they filled me in on the details of why Maduro had only won the elections by only slightly more than a single percentage point. This was despite using all the state resources at his disposal to (illegally) pay for and promote his campaign, including the state oil company PDVSA’s buses which drove state employees to the polls to vote for him. Chavistas simply hadn’t come out in large numbers to vote for him, and clearly many of the faithful had already gone over to the opposition.

Over the next few days and weeks, as I traveled through Venezuela, I began talking to the “counter-revolutionaries” and they offered evidence of their country’s deep problems to which my Chavista friends could only respond with rhetoric. In the industrial region of Guayana in the state of Bolívar, I interviewed union workers in the nationalized industries about the collapse of those industries. I was able to confirm their claims with secret footage shot for me by a worker using my own video camera, which showed the ruined interior of an enormous state factory where not a soul was to be seen on this particular work day.

In Caracas, I met with opposition human rights activists, union leaders, and leftwing academics for interviews. As the missing pieces of the puzzle began to fall into place, the reality of the Bolivarian catastrophe overwhelmed my resistance. Emilio Campos, then Secretary General of Carbonorca, the nationalized industrial coke plant, described the Bolivarian Revolution as nothing more than “a media show.” He called himself “a revolutionary for a plurality of ideas where a country seeks balance, not just for a party, or one sector of society. I believe in freedom of thought, in a diversity of ideas. But the hegemony of power makes you narrow-minded.”

The real turning point for me, however, was the interview I conducted with labor journalist Damian Prat, whose extraordinary book Guayana: El milagro al revés (Guayana: The Reversed Miracle) I had read over the two or three days it took me to get to Guayana from Merida by bus. The interview took place within a day or two of the shocking beatings of several prominent opposition National Assembly deputies by Chavista deputies during an official session. The state television cameras were turned off during the violence and afterwards, as the wounded were taken to the hospital. I was still shaken by the footage some brave parliamentarians had captured on their cell phones and leaked to the press.

I met Prat at his office at the Correo del Caroní, the Guayanesa daily paper. As I turned on my video camera, Prat smiled wryly. “Some of you in the critical, intellectual circles of Europe and the United States seem to think it’s fine that in the countries of our Latin America there are arbitrary governments and processes full of abuses that in your countries you wouldn’t consider allowing for a minute. No, in your own country you’d militantly reject the same things you seem to feel are perfectly fine to take place down here, so far away, where it’s exotic and interesting…” I felt my face redden with shame, and I suddenly felt my whole world capsize.

It would be months before I was able to return to Guayana to interview Rubén González, the former Chavista and Secretary General of Iron Mine Workers Union of the Orinoco (Sintra Ferrominera del Orinoco) about his own experience of imprisonment without trial “just for doing my job in the union and defending the rights of workers.” Referring to the claims of “sabotage” as the reason the industries were failing in the country, González told me that those in government “never thought of governing, but rather of enriching their little group in power. They never invested in these businesses, but totally bled them dry. They themselves are the saboteurs.” At the time of this writing, González is back in jail for organizing on behalf of workers in the state ironworks.

*     *     *

All of a sudden, I found myself in a strange world. I had drifted—at first gradually, but then definitively—into the camp of my former “enemies,” persuaded by their narrative and by the evidence before my own eyes. And, as I did so, I discovered that the editors of the news sites where I’d published my passionate defenses of the Bolivarian project for the past few years no longer responded to my pitches or my queries or my emails. As Venezuela disintegrated, I was lost and confused and alone.

And then, while I was grieving the loss of my innocent old life and its many friendships, something curious and unexpected began to happen. I discovered a great sense of excitement as I investigated “new” ideas for which I’d previously had nothing but contempt. I found myself reminded of Herbert Spencer’s quote at the end of the Alcoholics Anonymous Big Book: “There is a principle which is a bar against all information, which is proof against all arguments, and which cannot fail to keep a man in everlasting ignorance—that principle is contempt prior to investigation.”

For the next two years, I delved into the literature on Venezuela with renewed interest. Javier Corrales and Michael Penfold’s book, A Dragon in the Tropics, it turned out, was particularly well-researched and compelling. Since I could no longer get my writing published in any of the outlets for which I’d previously written, I redirected my energies into making a new film entitled In the Shadow of the Revolution with the help of a Venezuelan filmmaker and friend, Arturo Albarrán, and I wrote my political memoir for an adventurous anarchist publisher. But what preoccupied me more and more were the larger questions of socialism versus capitalism, and the meaning of liberalism.

I’d visited Cuba twice—in 1994 and again in 2010—and now, with my experience of Venezuela, I felt I’d seen the best socialism could offer. Not only was that offering pathetically meagre, but it had been disastrously destructive. It became increasingly clear to me that nothing that went under that rubric functioned nearly as well on any level as the system under which I had been fortunate enough to live in the US. Why then, did so many decent people, whose ethics and intelligence and good intentions I greatly respected, continue to insist that the capitalist system needed to be eliminated and replaced with what had historically proven to be the inferior system of socialism?

The strongest argument against state control of the means of production and distribution is that it simply didn’t—and doesn’t—work. The proof, as they say, is in the pudding—and in this case, there was no pudding at all. In my own lifetime, I’ve seen socialism fail in China, fail in the Soviet Union, fail in Eastern Europe, fail on the island of Cuba, and fail in Nicaragua under the Sandinistas. And now the world is watching it fail in Venezuela, where it burned through billions of petro-dollars of financing, only to leave the nation worse off than it was before. And still people like me had insisted on this supposed alternative to capitalism, stubbornly refusing to recognize that it is based on a faulty premise and a false epistemology.

As long ago as the early 1940s, F.A. Hayek had identified the impossibility of centralized social planning and its catastrophic consequences in his classic The Road to Serfdom. Hayek’s writings convinced the Hungarian economist, János Kornai, to dedicate an entire volume entitled The Socialist System to demonstrating the validity of his claims. The “synoptic delusion”—the belief that any small group of people could hold and manage all the information spread out over millions of actors in a market economy—Kornai argued, leads the nomenklatura to make disastrous decisions that disrupt production and distribution. Attempts to “correct” these errors only exacerbate the problems for the same reasons, leading to a whole series of disasters that result, at last, in a completely dysfunctional economy, and then gulags, torture chambers, and mass executions as the nomenklatura hunt for “saboteurs” and scapegoats.

The synoptic delusion—compounded by immense waste, runaway corruption, and populist authoritarianism—is what led to the mayhem engulfing Venezuela today, just as it explains why socialism is no longer a viable ideology to anyone but the kind of true believer I used to be. For such people, utopian ideologies might bring happiness into their own lives, and even into the lives of those around them who also delight in their dreams and fantasies. But when they gain control over nations and peoples, their harmless dreams become the nightmares of multitudes.

Capitalism, meanwhile, has dramatically raised the standard of living wherever it has been allowed to arise over the past two centuries. It is not, however, anything like a perfect or flawless system. Globalization has left many behind, even if their lives are far better than those of their ancestors just two hundred years ago, and vast wealth creation has produced vast inequalities which have, in turn, bred resentment. Here in California, the city of Los Angeles, “with a population of four million, has 53,000 homeless.” Foreign policy misadventures and the economic crash of 2008 opened the door to demagogues of the Left and the Right eager to exploit people’s hopes and fears so that they could offer themselves as the solution their troubled nations sought to the dystopian woe into which liberal societies had fallen. In his fascinating recent jeremiad Why Liberalism Failed, Patrick Deneen itemizes liberal democracy’s many shortcomings and, whether or not one accepts his stark prognosis, his criticisms merit careful thought and attention.

Nevertheless, markets do work for the majority, and so does liberal democracy, as dysfunctional as it often is. That is because capitalism provides the space for ingenuity and innovation, while liberal democracy provides room for free inquiry and self-correction. Progress and reform can seem maddeningly sluggish under such circumstances, particularly when attempting to redress grave injustice or to meet slow-moving existential threats like climate change. But I have learned to be wary of those who insist that the perfect must be the enemy of the good, and who appeal to our impatience with extravagant promises of utopia. If, as Deneen contends, liberalism has become a victim of its own success, it should be noted that socialism has no successes to which it can fall victim. Liberalism’s foundations may be capable of being shored up, but socialism is built on sand, and from sand. Failures, most sensible people realize, should be abandoned.

That is probably why Karl Popper advocated cautious, piecemeal reform of markets and societies because, like any other experiment, one can only accurately isolate problems and make corrections by changing one variable at a time. As Popper observed in his essay “Utopia and Violence”:

The appeal of Utopianism arises from the failure to realize that we cannot make heaven on earth. What I believe we can do instead is to make life a little less terrible and a little less unjust in each generation. A good deal can be achieved in this way. Much has been achieved in the last hundred years. More could be achieved by our own generation. There are many pressing problems which we might solve, at least partially, such as helping the weak and the sick, and those who suffer under oppression and injustice; stamping out unemployment; equalizing opportunities; and preventing international crime, such as blackmail and war instigated by men like gods, by omnipotent and omniscient leaders. All this we might achieve if only we could give up dreaming about distant ideals and fighting over our Utopian blueprints for a new world and a new man.

Losing faith in a belief system that once gave my life meaning was extremely painful. But the experience also reawakened my dormant intellectual curiosity and allowed me to think about the world anew, unencumbered by the circumscriptions of doctrine. I have met new people, read new writers and thinkers, and explored new ideas I had previously taken care to avoid. After reading an interview I had given to one of my publishers a year ago, I was forwarded an email by the poet David Chorlton. What I’d said in that interview, he wrote, “goes beyond our current disease of taking sides and inflexible non-thinking. I’m reading Havel speeches again, all in the light of the collective failure to live up to the post-communist opportunities. We’re suffering from a lack of objectivity—is that because everyone wants an identity more than a solution to problems?”

 

economics, foreign affairs, government, history, ideology, liberalism, poverty, public policy, reform, socialism

Filed under: economics, foreign affairs, government, history, ideology, liberalism, poverty, public policy, reform, socialism

Public education and hyper speed sex ed

original article: Sex Ed and Stalinism at the Local School Board
February 13, 2018 by AUSTIN RUSE

I usually avoid really sick, appalling spectacles. I skip movies like Saw. But last Thursday I saw something worse. I went to the sex-education committee meeting of the Fairfax County School Board. I have never seen anything as shocking.

Understand, that I have sat through years of shocking meetings. My day job is monitoring and lobbying the United Nations. But, I have never seen or heard anything like this. This meeting was a horror show. And a Soviet one at that.

The Family Life Education Curriculum Advisory Committee (FLECAC, pronounced flea-cack) advises the Fairfax County School Board for the content of the sex-education lessons taught to students from kindergarten through 12th grade.

This group has come up with over 80 hours of sex-education for these poor kids. And some of it is straight-up pornography.

Rich, Leftist, and Libertine

This school district in Northern Virginia, one of the largest and richest in the country, is among the most leftist in the country. No big surprise there. Twenty-five years ago, they were already promoting “Two Mommies” to the little tots.

But the sexual revolution ideology kicked into hyper speed a few years ago. Fairfax leftists put transgender ideology into schools a full year before Barack Obama’s Department of Education mandated it for the rest of the schools in the country. Last year the Trump administration cancelled the mandate, though Fairfax County is clinging onto it.

This committee has long embraced the rest of the LGBT program. “Oral sex” is introduced to kids as young as 12.  Thirteen year olds are told about “anal sex” 18 separate times in one year’s lessons.

The FLECAC committee is made up of about two dozen people. They’re appointed by the overwhelmingly leftist Fairfax County School Board. Four voting members are students, chosen no doubt because they’re members of student LGBT clubs, and most other members appear to be teachers and administrators.

If the idea behind the committee is to get community input, why stack it with people on the county payroll?

The School Board’s Supreme Soviet

Last Thursday night, two regular citizen members of the committee tried to offer amendments to the curriculum. What happened to them is right out of the Politburo of the Supreme Soviet.

The subject was the phrase “sex assigned at birth,” which appears numerous times in the lessons. This is a politically-charged slogan that teaches that it’s wrong for a delivery room doctor to say a penis means boy or a vagina means girl. A child should be left to his own gender choice later in life.

One citizen member made a motion to remove this phrase from the lessons and to simply use the word “sex” instead. Through parliamentary maneuvers, other members of the committee made sure the amendment was put off indefinitely without debate. The vote to cut off debate and never speak about it again passed 23-3.

The member who offered the amendment asked for a roll call, so that those voting to keep in “sex assigned at birth” would have their names associated with their votes. The motion for a roll call was killed by voice vote.

No debate, no accountability.

Another citizen member made a motion that, somewhere in the numerous lessons about various contraceptive methods taught beginning in eighth grade, there ought to be something about the possible health risks of certain contraceptives.

This, too, was shut down without debate, by a vote of 23-3. A roll call of the vote was shouted down by voice vote.

Hush, Adults Are Listening

The first citizen member made a motion to include a discussion in the lessons about the health risks associated with hormonal and surgical “transitioning.” This, too, was not allowed.

One county employee member asked why there was no lesson on anal sex for the seventh graders. There was oral sex, but why was anal sex missing? The chairman of the committee assured her that the anal sex begins with lessons in the eighth grade.

This revealing moment was followed by another: The chairman actually apologized, with a nervous laugh, for using those graphic terms.

Did it not occur to her, or anyone else on the committee, that she was apologizing to the adults in the room for using words that are scripted into the lessons they have created for children?

It was clear to me that much of the reaction to these motions was a kind of animus toward traditional morality. The glee with which the majority cut off the legitimate concerns of the minority was breathtaking.

Christians as the Taliban

One new member of the committee is a democratic activist named Daniel Press. He was the one who was most vociferous that these motions not only be trashed, but that they not even be discussed. On his Facebook page he calls Christians the Taliban and has an image of Christ on the cross over the mocking words: “Total Winner.”

The other thing that struck me was the sheep-like attitude of most of the members of the committee. There were a few loudmouth ideologues, to be sure.  One student member treated us to an anti-American diatribe ending with the charge that transphobia stems from white supremacy. For the most part the members were silent. But they were lickety-split to raise their hands whenever called upon to vote against debate, discussion, and accountability. That they could not allow.

Finally, it’s remarkable how fast such new and fantastical notions have entered the leftist mindset. The notion of “sex assigned at birth” was itself born just a few years ago. And yet, these people are so certain of its truth, they clap hands on their ears to avoid hearing anything contradictory. Even more, they clap their hands on the mouths of anyone who might want to question this new tenet of faith.

Blind Faith, False Faith

This brings to mind two things: brainwashing, and bad religion. The committee members may not know it, but they have been brainwashed to believe things that are simply not supported by either science or reason. Theirs is faith plain and simple, and the worst kind of faith, the kind that contradicts reason, the kind that can only be imposed. Theirs is a blind faith, taking as gospel whatever the sexual zeitgeist vomits forth.

And so what are parents to do? Opt their kids out of Family Life Education and take over the school board. One is easy, but both are necessary. Sexual Stalinism, of the kind I witnessed a few nights ago, has no place in the education of our children.

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anti-religion, bias, bigotry, bureaucracy, children, corruption, cover up, culture, education, elitism, ethics, extremism, ideology, indoctrination, left wing, liberalism, nanny state, political correctness, progressive, propaganda, public policy, reform, scandal

Filed under: anti-religion, bias, bigotry, bureaucracy, children, corruption, cover up, culture, education, elitism, ethics, extremism, ideology, indoctrination, left wing, liberalism, nanny state, political correctness, progressive, propaganda, public policy, reform, scandal

A mom’s/teacher’s experience shows big bureaucracy usurps the will of the people

original article: How Common Core Taught Me Bureaucrats Will Always Win Unless We Slash Big Government
January 3, 2018 by Jenni White

 

During summer 2010, while researching an article to address yet another tax-and-spend initiative to fund public schools, I stumbled upon a 33-page state law passed that spring titled “Schools; relating to teacher incentive pay plans; modifying requirements.”

Although a portion of the legislation did address teacher incentive pay, the bulk was used to establish a state longitudinal database, a “Teacher/Leader Effectiveness Evaluation” (TLE) system, a way to “turn around” low-performing schools, and institute something called the “Common Core State Standards” into Oklahoma policy with a single sentence.

A Google search led me to discover that cementing these four programs into state law increased the likelihood of our state receiving Race to the Top grants from the Obama administration. As a former public school teacher, the change in educational landscape represented by even one, let alone four, of these programs concerned me. As a small government gal and a parent with kids in public school, I wanted to know why our state would institute a whole raft of new, untested, educational programs just to get federal funds.

In June 2011, after months of investigation aimed at answering these questions, I published a paper with 179 references entitled “Common Core State Standards and Race to the Top; An Introduction to Marxism 101.”

Oklahoma’s Common Core Repeal

From 2011 to 2014, the Common Core Four, as National Review dubbed us, fought Common Core and student data collection in the Oklahoma legislature. We logged hours and hours of travel across the state and country, showing up anywhere we were invited—mostly Republican women’s clubs—where I talked about Common Core. Eventually I found myself on radio and news shows from Utah to Florida, including national media programs like Glenn Beck, Laura Ingraham, and NPR, discussing my research.

Finally, and many thanks to the Herculean efforts of state Sen. Josh Brecheen and state Rep. Jason Nelson, a law repealing Common Core and requiring the state to develop new “Oklahoma standards” was passed the last day of the 2014 legislative session. Following a state Supreme Court ruling denying a lawsuit to scuttle the bill, from Common Core supporters including four State Board of Education appointees, Gov. Mary Fallin signed the bill June 5.

By the time school started in the fall, we were fielding question after question through our Facebook page akin to, “They’re still teaching Common Core at our school! What do I do?”

I was not surprised that schools would continue to use Common Core curricula, but was surprised it was so blatantly done and with so little regard for the law. This turned out to be the least of my surprises. After an exhaustive search for an answer, the biggest shock we got was that we’d overlooked the most important part of House Bill 3399—an enforcement mechanism.

Unfortunately, our hard-fought, hard-won Common Core repeal bill was little more than a suggestion at best. Nowhere in its endless legalese did it address punitive action for continued use of Common Core. Other than contacting their local district attorneys (which several parents did and were ignored, with replies  of “Why would we spend money going after Common Core ‘law breakers’ when we’ve got meth labs on every corner?”) we were told parents should run for local school boards to keep it out of their schools.

After licking our wounds from this setback, we pulled up our big girl panties and prepared to watchdog the curriculum mandates re-write process, thinking we’d see Common Core end there.

Oklahoma’s Common Core Standards Re-Write Saga

The standards re-write process began in earnest in January 2015 under direction of a new state superintendent. In February, Dr. Sandra Stotsky—an education policy powerhouse and member of the Common Core State Standards Validation Committee who refused to sign off—and Dr. Larry Gray, a math professor at the University of Minnesota, were among four experts asked to testify before the Standards Process Steering Committee about how Oklahoma’s new academic standards (OAS) could advance beyond Common Core.

Very long story short, after producing critiques of all four subsequently released standards drafts, Reclaim Oklahoma Parent Empowerment, the grassroots organization I help lead, asked the legislature to grant more time to the re-write process before officially making OAS the state’s new curriculum and testing mandates. From that moment on, the Oklahoma education establishment (#oklaed) engaged in a series of social media attacks against ROPE, and me personally, to marginalize us as “tinfoil hats” for suggesting any overlap between OAS and Common Core, and me as a hater of public education.

Leo Baxter, a state school board member who sued to stop the Common Core repeal, was especially vocal, taking to social media every moment he could, at one point calling Stotsky an “arrogant miscreant” (while misspelling Massachusetts).

Rather than stand their ground against a vocal, largely uncivil, minority of Oklahoma teachers, the Oklahoma senate gaveled out of session rather than vote on Oklahoma’s new “Oklahoma Academic Standards” (OAS). On March 28, 2016, OAS became law through administrative processes written in the bill, leaving Oklahomans who fought desperately for better education standards with nothing for all our years of citizen advocacy.

Oklahoma and Common Core Today: One Teacher’s View

Emotionally spent after years of fighting government for better education opportunities only to end up very publicly attacked, I wrote a blog post detailing all the ways I’d come to believe Common Core had beaten us despite Oklahoma’s repeal. I stand behind every observation today, but I wanted to know if others had the same pessimistic conclusions, so I interviewed several.

Sandy Harrell, an Oklahoma math teacher who participated in the “Common Core Is Not OK” pushback, at first assured me, “Common Core is not gone from Oklahoma classrooms,” before telling me how unclear the new mandates are, echoing a common complaint about OAS. The thing that frustrates her most however, is the fact that, “Some teachers and administrators thought adopting CC was a step in the right direction. There are teachers who still use CC in their classrooms because they think it superior to OAS.”

An April 2015 article in the Hechinger Report called “Gone but not forgotten? Common Core lingers after Oklahoma’s repeal” reinforces Sandy’s point. Here, the author interviews several Oklahoma teachers including Oklahoma teacher of the year (2009) Heather Sparks, who admits that not only does she use Common Core-aligned teaching materials, she also writes Common Core-aligned lesson plans for a teaching website.

Harrell told me many of her fellow teachers are “grasping at straws” to satisfy OAS with limited budgets and outdated resources. This often leads them to reach for curricula from outside suppliers, which correlate OAS and CC math standards.

“I’m curious how Smith Curriculum and Consulting can equate each OAS and CC standard to provide teaching resources if the two sets of standards are not closely related, as some OSDE employees have claimed,” Harrell said. “As a teacher, I have to be able to justify every lesson and method I teach. I have yet to hear anyone justify why CC is superior to PASS [Oklahoma’s previous academic standards].”

Oklahoma and Common Core Today: A Legislator Responds

Josh Brecheen, the Oklahoma state senator responsible in great part for HB3399, told me, “It’s a teacher by teacher decision as to whether they are bringing Common Core aligned curriculum into the classroom. It’s my hope teachers continue to honor the wish of Oklahomans who voiced their opposition to the Common Core State Standards through their elected officials.”

For Brecheen, the biggest threat to Common Core independence in Oklahoma has to do with the new state superintendent’s desire to have taxpayers pay for every high school junior to take the ACT, a college entrance exam controlled by a private company.

“ACT is known to be aligned to the Common Core and if a teacher uses Common Core curriculum, rationalizing it will prepare students for the ACT exam, this undermines HB3399 and ultimately, the voice of parents in our state,” Brecheen said.

Interestingly, the information regarding ACT’s alignment with Common Core has since been scrubbed from its website. Thankfully, my experience with disappearing pages from the Common Core webpage taught me to take lots of screenshots.

The senator also believes using the ACT in such a way “puts private companies in charge of what is being taught in our state and not teachers and parents,” yet most Oklahoma lawmakers, as well as those in many other states, seemed largely content to mandate ACT for all juniors. “National curriculum uniformity driven by company profits and a national marketplace for their goods and service offerings will stagnate educational improvement long term as well as threaten each state’s traditional values,” Brecheen says.

Oklahoma and Common Core Today: A Parent’s Take

Like many Oklahoma parents, Melissa Wilkins watched her third grader, Ashlyn, turn into someone she didn’t know during the 2014 school year.

“We started every morning with a fight because she constantly complained of a stomach ache and cried because she didn’t want to go to school,” she said. “We would finally get her around and out the door to catch the bus, and then I would catch myself almost dreading her walking back in the door after school. It wasn’t uncommon for her to walk in the door, hit or kick her baby brother for no reason, and then run back to her bedroom where she would yell or cry, again for no reason I could understand.”

After talking to another parent, she found her daughter’s school was implementing Common Core math and English just in time to take the state’s new third-grade reading test, the results of which could keep her from moving to fourth grade. While taking part in Common Core repeal activities, she also met many times with Ashlyn’s teacher, wondering why her daughter had slipped from a fifth-grade reading level to barely above third grade.

When she saw her daughter’s practice tests, “I was appalled,” she said. “Not only was the content immoral, but the questions were so subjective that there simply could be no right or wrong answer.”

After fighting so hard for her kids’ education, Wilkens’ life changed once Common Core was repealed. Through her advocacy on Common Core, she became interested in “alternative means” of education, because her four children “all have very different approaches to learning.”

Wilkens homeschooled her other two children for a year, after which she enrolled them in an Oklahoma online charter school. Wilkens continues to be frustrated by numerous reading assignments given to her oldest son, who was required to read graphic, anti-Christian literature in his senior English class.

“Is Common Core dead in Oklahoma? I would say no,” Wilkens says. “Am I better prepared to lead my children through the challenges posed by this toxic set of standards? Yes! Being a political activist cannot be my primary role, but I will never again be scared to dig deeper when my gut tells me something isn’t right.”

Oklahoma and Common Core Today: A Teacher of Teachers

Barbara McClanahan is an associate professor of educational instruction at Southeastern Oklahoma State University. Early in our fight, we were asked to give a presentation in the far southeast part of the state, where we met this diminutive powerhouse who had done all her own research on Common Core and come to the same conclusions. Until Common Core was repealed, she spent her time like we did: testifying before government committees, writing, and traipsing about talking to anyone who would listen.

Barbara says, “In the fall of 2011…I began to have my teacher candidates attempt to apply the new CC standards to the lesson plans they were required to write for 1st-3rd grade students. We began to discover that the standards components for these age groups and grade levels simply did not match the developmental concepts they were learning about in their textbooks. I became quite frustrated and began looking outside my institution, which seemed to have no answers, for an explanation.”

To her the Common Core victory was hollow, she says, in part because both Oklahoma City Public Schools and Tulsa Public Schools loudly proclaimed their continued use, but also because the standards don’t help children learn to read well. In the end, she says, her position on standards changed.

“Whereas I used to feel that standards were a useful tool, the fact that they have been co-opted in the service of high-stakes standardized tests makes their usefulness highly questionable. Standards, in the end, lead to standardization, which is fine for widgets, but not for children,” Barbara says.

And What About Me?

I learned through this process that education policy in this country simply can’t be shifted by citizens anymore because there are too many moving parts and entrenched policy makers tied to progressive education methods to have any real impact. So I quit fighting for public education.

Part of me hates that, but I was beginning to look a bit like the Elephant Man from banging my head into unmovable walls, and my husband and kids deserved more of my attention. Today, I help run our small farm, teach three classes at our homeschool co-op, and drive my kids’ studies like a good natured tyrant.

If I learned anything from Common Core, I learned that local is the answer to nearly every government problem, and I turned my attention to my tiny Oklahoma town of 2,700 where, in April, I became mayor. Now I fight battles largely winnable, in a picturesque little town on a plot of land where I can see both the sunrise and sunset, and pray that national public education will get better despite the near impossibility of parents and local voters to significantly affect it.

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bureaucracy, children, culture, education, government, indoctrination, legislation, legislature, marxism, nanny state, politics, public policy, reform, tragedy

Filed under: bureaucracy, children, culture, education, government, indoctrination, legislation, legislature, marxism, nanny state, politics, public policy, reform, tragedy

After tearing down the old religious sexual barriers, is feminism rebuilding them?

original article: From chaperones to modesty wear, a sexual reformation is underway
November 4, 2017 by Lara Prendergast

Quick note: there is no such thing as “ethical porn” and being fearful of harmful allegations is not “prudish”.

Nell Minow, an American film critic, recently described how in 2010 she had interviewed the Friends actor David Schwimmer. When the noise in the restaurant grew too loud, he asked her whether she might like to move to a room upstairs with him, and if so, would she like a chaperone present. She praised him for this behaviour. ‘He understood what it is like to have to be constantly on the alert and he wanted to make sure I understood I was safe.’

When I read Minow’s story, my reaction was to think what a patronising arse Schwimmer must be. A woman journalist shouldn’t need a chaperone when she is doing her job. But, in the fallout from the Harvey Weinstein allegations, it has become clear that, for many women, safety is starting to trump liberty. We are moving towards a chaperone culture, in which women, delicate lambs that we are, must be protected at all times.

A new schism is opening up between men and women. Women are incessantly told to be vigilant of predatory men and are increasingly scared to be out in public. Men, meanwhile, are becoming more nervous around women for fear that their very nature is itself threatening to the opposite sex. The wrong words, gestures or body language might now render them guilty of one of the new crimes popping up on social media — for example, ‘creeping’ on someone or being ‘too handsy’. The spotlight is on Hollywood and Westminster — or ‘Pestminster’, as it has been dubbed — but it will soon turn to other industries. More sex pests will be exposed or their peccadillos gossiped about on WhatsApp groups. The internet jury will then make its decision.

It’s not hard to see why this is happening. There have always been rapists and men who exploit women for kicks, and the sexual revolution of the 1960s has done nothing to stop them; worse, perhaps, it has given them licence to operate without the old boundaries. We live in a time that is almost defined by seedy characters such as Donald Trump and Weinstein, so it’s natural that women feel they must be on their guard.

Sexual abuse allegations are coming thick and fast. If real crimes are uncovered because women feel emboldened to come forward, that can only be good. It should go without saying that any woman who has been the victim of sexual abuse deserves sympathy and to be believed. Unfortunately, that still has to be said, because too many women are not believed when they tell their stories. And if they took a while to speak, they are doubted because of the delay or told not to cause trouble. Just this week, activist Bex Bailey claimed that she was raped by a senior Labour official six years ago — but was advised by a party official not to report it in case it damaged her career.

But if you look beyond the current hysteria, something sinister is happening. Barriers between men and women that had been knocked down by feminists are being resurrected — in the name of feminism. Whereas it used to be religious groups that enforced sexual morality, in our modern, secular culture, the loudest voices on the internet are taking over that responsibility.AdTech Ad

Think of it as a new sexual reformation. Five hundred years ago, Luther posted his 95 theses on the door at Wittenberg; today, prominent women have begun issuing edicts about appropriate male behaviour. Like Luther, these women think it is their mission to change the world.

Earlier this month, the writer Helen Rosner published a guide to ‘20 things men can do to support women, beyond just literally ceasing to sexually harass us’. It included suggestions for men such as ‘seek out women to be your heroes’, ‘talk less. At all times’ and consume ‘ethical’ porn made by women, queer people and people of colour. I wonder what Luther would have made of that.

A lot of this boils down to that boring ancient impulse to separate men and women. There is political chatter about the possibility of ‘women-only carriages’ on trains. The orthodoxy of ‘safe spaces’ —which began as part of the women’s movement before becoming a university campus cliché — is starting to infiltrate public life.

Last year, a survey showed that 70 per cent of British women have taken steps to guard themselves against harassment. The poll included ten different strategies those polled had used, including avoiding parks or public transport, missing school or work or taking a chaperone. ‘Modesty wear’ — clothing which offers an alternative fashion for those who want to cover up — is becoming more popular on the catwalks. In February, more than 40 designers took part in the first ‘London modest fashion week’.

The old feminist trope says that it is not a woman’s responsibility to worry about her own safety; it is a man’s job not to harass her. Yet women are clearly taking increasingly extreme measures to protect themselves because a small number of vocal campaigners are telling us that all our worst fears about men are true — and we must take action. And if this means reinstating old-fashioned segregation at the expense of hard-won freedoms, so be it.

The #MeToo hashtag, which trended on social media in the days after the Weinstein story broke, revealed just how many women considered themselves victims of sexual abuse. But also, how alarmingly wide that definition ran. On my own Facebook feed, the experiences described stretched from rape to ‘feeling as if a man once looked through me’. The implicit message of all these confessional posts was clear: if it hasn’t happened to you yet, you’ve just been lucky. Or perhaps you are in denial. It’s as if a new feminist movement is advocating victimhood, rather than equality. And women who protest about this new reality are denounced as traitors to their sex.

The paranoia isn’t confined to women. Understandably, plenty of men are starting to feel anxious about what this might all mean. Each day brings fresh stories in the newspapers of prominent figures tumbling from positions of power because of a major — or minor — misdemeanour. A sexual abuse accusation, or even a snifter of gossip published online, has the power to sabotage a career and ruin a life.

So men are also starting to think about how best to defend themselves. Nobody wants to be daubed with the pervert brush. Older men tell me that they are nervous that something in the distant past that would once have been dismissed as silly behaviour will now be dredged up as damning evidence. Younger men, meanwhile, seem even more reticent about approaching women or making a move. I heard a story recently about a woman who had been on a date with a man who was younger than her. After a few drinks, they ended up back at her house. The woman was keen to go to bed with him, but he refused because he was so worried about doing something that might later lead to recriminations. In the current climate, who can blame him?

Professional life is becoming a nightmare. Young women feel uneasy about the lay of the land. What career can you choose that won’t involve creeps? And men in positions of authority will inevitably become more anxious about hiring women. It must just seem easier to hire other men, who are less likely to interpret a clumsy comment as sexual assault. Across a wide range of industries, men are being given guidance as to how they should behave so as to avoid getting caught out by this new sexual counter-revolution. Consent classes have been compulsory at British universities for a few years, but law firms and banks are also starting to introduce them. In the military, some officers have been advised that they should ask for a woman to give them consent, filmed on their phone, before taking things further.

It’s a surprise, really, that anyone is having sex these days, given the reputational risk involved. One single girlfriend tells me she is worried about what this all means for her hopes of finding a husband. What sensible man would try it on after a few drinks? Then again, what happy romantic relationship didn’t start with a lunge? Sexual relations are never black and white.

The paradox is that all this paranoia comes during an era of intense sexual libertinism — the decade of Fifty Shades of Grey, one of the bestselling books of all time. We live in an age of chemsex parties and ‘hi-tech sex toys’. Hard-core porn is always a few clicks away. It’s never been easier to hook up, via dating apps or the internet. While embracing so much freedom, society is moving towards prudishness. We all talk about sex all the time, but the safest sex is no sex at all.

This new sexual reformation may leave women feeling safer in a domestic environment, surrounded by other women — or chaperoned when out in public. So what started off as an attempt to give support to abused women mutates into a movement that undoes everything women’s rights campaigners have fought for. Men, too, may cut themselves off, retreating into the company of other men, and we will be back where we were a century ago. How’s that for a sexual revolution?

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culture, ethics, feminism, freedom, reform, sex, unintended consequences

Filed under: culture, ethics, feminism, freedom, reform, sex, unintended consequences

The importance of society being rooted in marriage between one man and one woman

original article: Defense of Marriage Is a Social Justice Issue, Scholar Says
October 10, 2013

 

Maintaining marriage as a union between a man and a woman is a matter of social justice, said Ryan Anderson, a political scholar and editor of the online journal Public Discourse, in a recent talk.

Speaking to students at Georgetown University in Washington, D.C., Anderson acknowledged that efforts to redefine marriage are often characterized as being rooted in a sense of justice.

However, he said, the case against redefining marriage is actually an argument based upon justice, “precisely because marriage exists as the prime institution of social justice that guarantees and protects the rights and well-being of children.”

“If you care about social justice and you care about limited government; if you care about the poor and you care about freedom – it’s better served by a healthy marriage culture than by government picking up the pieces of a broken marriage culture.”

Anderson, a Ph.D. candidate in political philosophy at the University of Notre Dame, is also co-author of the book, “What Is Marriage? Man and Woman: A Defense.”

Determining marriage’s definition and limits is the primary concern of the marriage debate, Anderson said in his Oct. 9 talk.

“Everyone wants marriage equality: we all want the government to treat all marriages as equal, but that begs the question – what is marriage?

He explained that many of those who promote the redefinition of marriage to include same-sex couples understand marriage to be an intense kind of romantic relationship between sexual partners. In this view of marriage, adult desires and sexual needs are of primary concern, and the needs of children produced by such a union are secondary.

However, this understanding of marriage is lacking, Anderson said, as it does not take into account the needs of children, “nor can it describe or define or defend” the norms surrounding marriage, such as why government is involved in it; its restriction to two people; why it is sexual; and why it should be permanent.

This understanding of marriage “makes it more about the desires of adults and less about children” and their needs, said Anderson, adding that “the consequence of redefining marriage is that more people will think of their relationship in those terms and that it will produce bad social outcomes, especially for children.”

But across diverse societies and throughout history, he contended, marriage has been understood as a “comprehensive union” in which man and woman become “one flesh,” particularly in their ability to create children. As a whole, in this understanding, “marriage is ordered to the comprehensive good in the creation and raising of children.”

This understanding is also “based on the social reality that children deserve a mother and a father” and that “there’s something about gender that matters” in the raising of children.

“There is no parenting in the abstract: there is mothering and there is fathering,” he said, and both mothers and fathers “bring different gifts” to children.

He pointed to studies examining socio-economic factors, which show that children raised by their biological mothers and fathers fare better than those raised by other family structures, particularly same-sex parents.

In addition, Anderson observed that “the breakdown of the family” in the latter half of the 20th century was accompanied by a rise in social dysfunction, marked by a widespread number of indicators ranging from school performance to crime rates to decreased adult happiness. These indicators show a marked correlation with fatherlessness rates in the home.

Mothers are always present at a child’s birth, the scholar continued. “The question for culture is whether a father will be present, and if so, for how long?”

“If you redefine marriage in law, there will be no institution left that even holds as an idea the right of a child to have a relationship with both a mother and a father.”

Such a redefinition “holds up in law that men and women are functionally interchangeable” thus preventing the law from teaching “that fathers are essential.” Rather, it “will make fathers optional,” likely compounding the already-existing consequences of fatherlessness in society.

“If you care about the poor, what can we do to make it more likely that these men commit to the women that they are in relationships with, and then take responsibility for the children that they create?” Anderson asked.

“The reason why the state is in the marriage business is to maximize the opportunity that every child will be raised by a mother and a father, and preferably by the mother and the father that created the child,” he said.

“The state wants to ensure that a man and a woman commit to each other as husband and wife, permanently and exclusively,” he stressed, “and when this doesn’t happen, the social costs run high.”

children, culture, family, ideology, philosophy, public policy, reform, relativism, unintended consequences

Filed under: children, culture, family, ideology, philosophy, public policy, reform, relativism, unintended consequences

School choice: let’s be honest enough to remember Rome wasn’t built in a day

original article: Guest column: School choice data doesn’t reflect classroom reality
October 11, 2017 by Robert C. Enlow

Louisiana has become a closely watched laboratory for school choice, and for good reason. The state has several ways families can choose: voucher programs, tax-credit scholarships, a tax credit and deduction program, alongside a system of traditional and charter schools.

The spotlight shone a little brighter recently when a study from the University of Arkansas and Tulane University showed a negative effect on first-year students using private school choice programs to access new schooling options. But by the third year, things had turned around for those students. Unfortunately, much of the attention focused only on the first-year decline. That is simply not fair, nor is it the way we have ever judged traditional public schools.

Adults have trouble adapting to a new routine at the gym, let alone a new job or a relocation. Imagine how a second-grader feels to walk into a new school, meet new teachers and make all new friends — potentially while learning a new set of rules and adapting to a new school culture. Indeed, kids need time to adjust to new school settings, and their future success can depend on the extent of their mobility.

The recent study shows students in private school choice programs actually make gains after that first- and second-year decline — and in some areas wind up ahead of their public school peers within three to four years. Students in Louisiana saw steep declines in both reading and math scores in the first year of the voucher program, a result that may be attributable to the short window students initially had to enroll and the limited number of private schools participating. After the first year, outcomes improved in both areas, with reading scores higher after the third year than when students began the program. The Louisiana Scholarship Program had significant positive effects on reading scores for the lowest-performing students.

Simply put, kids need time to adjust to new circumstances the same way grown-ups do. And interviews with school leaders and staff in other states have found private schools participating in choice programs also needed to make some adjustments to better serve the students who were coming from public schools. School choice programs enable students to leave a school that is not working for them and switch to a school they believe will be a better fit. We know from our original research that families choose for a variety of reasons, but chief among them are better academics, smaller classes, a safer environment and a focus on morals and values.

While private school parents report overwhelming satisfaction with their choices, that doesn’t lessen the literal and figurative learning curve for students who may be coming from district schools with large classes, lower academic standards or less emphasis on character development. They’re not only in a new school; it’s a completely new experience for them. Which brings up a final point as we look at this new Louisiana study and anticipate additional research on the effectiveness of choice programs: Supporters and opponents alike have become far too reliant on standardized test scores — often from only one, state-mandated test — to determine whether a type of school or choice program is successful. As choice programs go, Louisiana’s is one of the most restrictive in the nation when it comes to testing.

Yet when you ask families whether and why they are satisfied with their child’s K-12 experience, test scores are rarely among their top indicators of a quality school. Rather, they tend to focus on safety, class size and college acceptance rates. And there are studies that show choice programs have positive effects on high school graduation rates, college enrollment and persistence in college. As school choice continues to gain support, we must broaden the conversation about effectiveness to include more than scores, and we must seek access to more data that can help us determine not just how students are performing in math and reading, but what effect expanding educational options has on them beyond graduation.

We also must resist the temptation to jump on every short-term data finding as a symbol of the success or failure of a school choice program — or for that matter schools, teachers or students. Rome wasn’t built in a day, and humans don’t adjust to new situations overnight.

bias, education, ideology, innovation, reform, study

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Gun control advocate: blanket gun control not the answer

original article: Statistician Who Championed Stringent Gun Control Now Argues Against It After Studying Data
October 3, 2017 by HANK BERRIEN

Writing in The Washington Post, Leah Libresco, a statistician and former newswriter at FiveThirtyEight, the site run by famed statistician Nate Silver, admits that she reversed herself on gun control, evolving from blaming the NRA for gun deaths to realizing more stringent, blanket gun control was not an answer to gun deaths.

Libresco starts by confessing that before she started researching gun deaths, gun-control policy used to frustrate her, and she blamed the National Rifle Association for blocking the banning of assault weapons, restricting silencers, and shrinking magazine sizes.

Then she started analyzing data from the roughly 33,000 lives ended by guns each year in the United States, and a light bulb went on. She writes that when she examined the evidence, “The best ideas left standing were narrowly tailored interventions to protect subtypes of potential victims, not broad attempts to limit the lethality of guns.”

Notably, Libresco dismisses the oft-stated myth that the tight gun laws in Britain and Australia had any relevance for America, as she writes, “Neither nation experienced drops in mass shootings or other gun related-crime that could be attributed to their buybacks and bans.”

Libresco continues, “When I looked at the other oft-praised policies, I found out that no gun owner walks into the store to buy an ‘assault weapon.’ It’s an invented classification that includes any semi-automatic that has two or more features, such as a bayonet mount, a rocket-propelled grenade-launcher mount, a folding stock or a pistol grip. But guns are modular, and any hobbyist can easily add these features at home, just as if they were snapping together Legos.”

Libresco notes, “Silencers limit hearing damage for shooters but don’t make gunfire dangerously quiet. An AR-15 with a silencer is about as loud as a jackhammer.”

Some more reality: “Two-thirds of gun deaths in the United States every year are suicides. Almost no proposed restriction would make it meaningfully harder for people with guns on hand to use them.”

Segueing to the next-largest set of gun deaths, young men aged 15 to 34, killed in homicides, and the tertiary set, women killed (mostly as the result of domestic violence), Libresco decides, “Few of the popularly floated policies were tailored to serve them.”

Libresco writes, “I can’t endorse policies whose only selling point is that gun owners hate them. … I found the most hope in more narrowly tailored interventions.”

Suggestions?

Older men, who make up the largest share of gun suicides, need better access to people who could care for them and get them help. Women endangered by specific men need to be prioritized by police, who can enforce restraining orders prohibiting these men from buying and owning guns. Younger men at risk of violence need to be identified before they take a life or lose theirs and to be connected to mentors who can help them de-escalate conflicts.

Libresco concludes: “We save lives by focusing on a range of tactics to protect the different kinds of potential victims and reforming potential killers, not from sweeping bans focused on the guns themselves.”

crisis, culture, government, gun rights, public policy, reform, science, tragedy
 

Filed under: crisis, culture, government, gun rights, public policy, reform, science, tragedy

More social justice math, it’s “discriminatory”

original article: Math is ‘unjust and grounded in discrimination,’ educators moan
August 23, 2017 by Toni Airaksinen

  • Two national organizations of math teachers are on a mission to prove that math education is “unjust and grounded in a legacy of institutional discrimination.”
  • In a joint statement, the groups complain that making students “master the basics” leads to “segregation and separation,” and call on math instructors to adopt a “social justice stance” in the classroom.

Two national mathematics organizations are on a mission to prove that math education is “unjust and grounded in a legacy of institutional discrimination.”

The National Council of Supervisors of Mathematics (NCSM) and TODOS: Mathematics for All “ratify social justice as a key priority in the access to, engagement with, and advancement in mathematics education for our country’s youth,” the groups declared last year in a joint statement, elaborating that “a social justice stance interrogates and challenges the roles power, privilege, and oppression play in the current unjust system of mathematics education—and in society as a whole.”

Next month, NCSM and TODOS, along with a few other membership societies for math teachers, will host a free webinar drawing upon the principals noted in their joint statement, inviting any interested members of the public to join in hearing “A Call for a Collective Action to Develop Awareness: Equity and Social Justice in Mathematics Education.”

[RELATED: Teachers learn to use math as Trojan horse for social justice]

The president of NCSM, Connie Schrock, is a math professor at Emporia State University, and multiple professors serve on the board of TODOS.

While the organizations hope that math can be used as a tool for social justice in the future, they also believe that math has historically perpetuated “segregation and separation,” asserting in their joint statement that “mathematics achievement, often measured by standardized tests, has been used as a gatekeeping tool to sort and rank students by race, class, and gender starting in elementary school.”

Citing the practice of “tracking,” in which pupils are sorted by academic ability into groups for certain classes, NCSM and TODOS argue that “historically, mathematics and the perceived ability to learn mathematics have been used to educate children into different societal roles such as leadership/ruling class and labor/working class leading to segregation and separation.”

[RELATED: Michigan colleges drops math, considers diversity course instead]

“In practice, children placed in ‘low’ groups experience mathematics as an isolating act consisting of fact-driven low cognitive demand tasks and an absence of mathematics discourse opportunities,” the statement contends, attributing the condition to “a pervasive misguided belief that students must ‘master the basics’ prior to engaging with complex problems [sic] solving.”

The groups also bemoan the “white and middle class” workforce of math teachers, fretting that it may not appropriately “reflect” the demographics of the communities in which they teach, such as immigrant or racial minority communities.

Social justice could be the key to solving these issues, they say, calling on math teachers to assume a “social justice stance” that “challenges the roles power, privilege, and oppression play in the current unjust system of mathematics.”

[RELATED: Prof finds ‘no evidence’ sexism is behind gender gap in STEM]

NCSM and TODOS even provided detailed strategies that math teachers can use to promote social justice, such as advocating for increased “recruitment and retention of math teachers from historically marginalized groups” and challenging “individual and societal beliefs underlying the deficit views about mathematics learning and children, with specific attention to race/ethnicity, class, gender, culture, and language.”

But social justice work is nothing without accountability, they warn, declaring that “we must hold the profession and our organizations accountable to making a just and equitable mathematics education a sustainable reality.”

Campus Reform reached out to NCSM and TODOS for more information. TODOS did not reply, and NCSM President Connie Schrock declined to schedule an interview.

bias, corruption, culture, discrimination, diversity, education, elitism, extremism, government, ideology, indoctrination, left wing, liberalism, pandering, philosophy, political correctness, progressive, propaganda, reform

Filed under: bias, corruption, culture, discrimination, diversity, education, elitism, extremism, government, ideology, indoctrination, left wing, liberalism, pandering, philosophy, political correctness, progressive, propaganda, reform

Trans revolution: Public schools are only the beginning

original article: The Trans Juggernaut Wants Your Kids, And Public Schools Are Just The Beginning
August 17, 2017 by Joy Pullmann

If you had argued pre-Obergefell that de-sexing marriage would lead to drag queens leading preschool storytime in public libraries and public schools hounded into hiding their mandatory sex ed curriculum from parents after a settlement requiring trans-friendly “education” starting in kindergarten, you would have been called an unhinged bigot. How could what two consenting adults do privately have any effect on whether five-year-olds are told they should consider cutting off their penises? Preposterous. Fear-mongering. Wild-eyed insanity.

Or not. Rod Dreher’s “Law of Merited Impossibility” strikes again: “It will never happen, and when it does, you bigots will deserve it.” As I’ve written beforeObergefelland related caselaw, which are still developing, are turning out not to be aboutwhat consenting adults do privately. They are the spear tip of a wholesale shift in law that is already negatively affecting children, because at its heart is the principle that sexuality is genderless.

As theologian N.T. Wright pointed out to the Times of London last week, “Nature…tends to strike back, with the likely victims in this case being vulnerable and impressionable youngsters who, as confused adults, will pay the price for their elders’ fashionable fantasies.”

This is likely why the transgender movement is targeting the young: They are vulnerable and impressionable, prepuberty pose better as either sex and therefore look less terrifying than adult transgenders, and once locked into the trans body morph will never truly be able to escape. Devastated people are prime candidates for exploitation by their pretend advocates. Also, locking in trans-policies now is a way to preclude debate before more extensive data and personal experience can fuel the inevitable backlash.

Of course this is bad for kids, but it’s not about kids. They’re just pawns, as usual. It’s about politics. Pushing transgenderism not only destabilizes a key component of a child’s identity but also contributes to early sexualization that is linked with mental illness and risky behaviors. Early exposure to and lack of clear parental direction about sex is also linked with increased gender confusion, which is precisely what we’re seeing as clinics for cutting and pasting children’s hormones and body parts explode inside a media environment that glamorizes this form of child abuse.

Parents are facing fewer and fewer ways to protect their children from being used as guinea pigs inside an experiment constructed by unelected bureaucrats. Here we’ll discuss two recent examples: one specific and one more general.

You Can’t Know What We’re Teaching Your Kids About Sex

Kelsey Harkness recently reported on the brewing situation at a public charter school in Minnesota. Charters are public schools often created and run by a board of a coalition of local parents and community leaders. Everyone who attends has to choose to do so rather than be assigned to attend automatically through geographic attendance zones, like most public schools. They usually provide a safe haven for families looking for a sound alternative to traditional schools, which are on average of lower academic quality because they do not have to compete for students.

Saint Paul’s Nova Classical Academy is ranked by U.S. News and World Report as the top Minnesota high school. But it has been transformed into a rainbow Trojan horse after Dave and Hannah Edwards sued Nova for not including pro-transgender materials starting in kindergarten to accommodate their five-year-old son, whom they claim is transgender. Parents began transferring their kindergarteners out of the child’s class when they came home saying things like, “Mom, I think you can choose if you want to be a boy or a girl,” according to interviews with The Daily Signal.

The little boy began wearing a female uniform and accessories, and classes began to include pro-trans picture books endorsing gender fluidity. This month’s settlement after 16 months of litigation requires the school to make all uniforms available to both sexes, pay LGBT organizations to “train staff” in politically correct behavior every three years, and “not adopt any gender policy that allows parents to opt out of requirements in the gender inclusion policy because of objections based on religion or conscience.” This lawyer and Federalist contributor, after reviewing the settlement, said it appears to ban the school from even notifying parents of its sex policies.

The circumstances are even more suspicious and shocking than a prohibition on telling parents what their children will be learning about human biology: Dave Edwards is an academic in the University of Minnesota’s Department of Psychology, whose pending PhD is being funded by a taxpayer-funded grant and who specializes in transgender education. As a school consultant and trainer on gender identity, he now personally profits from doing “training” of the kind his family’s settlement forces on Nova. Here’s from his website, GenderInclusiveSchools.com.

There are more curiosities in the family’s case. Edwards’ LinkedIn profile lists him as a “founding staff member of Venture Academy Charter School,” also in Saint Paul, a high-profile school funded by the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation, which uses its deep pockets to seed “education reform” with far-left ideas and personnel. Edwards started his career in a heavily Gates-funded teaching fellowship known for its politically progressive staff.

Rather than enroll his son in the school Dave helped create, the Edwardses chose to apply for Nova at approximately the same timeDave stopped working at Venture Academyand began pursuing his doctorate with a focus on transgender school compliance. This was almost three years after the family decided the child was gender-fluid when he began emulating Beyonce’s dancing at two years old. In March 2016, after their son had attended Nova for seven months, the Edwardses withdrew him, but continued to press their lawsuit.

“The daily influence of this little boy, who very much looks like a girl, all the accessories … they’re really doing it up with him,” said a mother whose six-year-old was in kindergarten for those few months with the Edwardses’ son when he was five. Since lawsuit-induced policies have been adopted, Nova has lost a tenth of its students.

Nova Is Just a Tip of the Spear

Nova is a test case for what trans activists want to perpetuate nationwide — and not just in public schools, but also in private and home schools. An 8-year-old drag queen groomed by his parents says “If you want to be a drag queen and your parents don’t let you, you need new parents,” the underlying, totalitarian belief of the movement he represents. The easiest initial access point is private school choice programs, but activists are also targeting all private schools through accreditation bodies. The accreditation attack is currently most visible in higher education, but it’s spreading to K-12.

Since President Trump appointed school choice proponent Betsy DeVos as education secretary, Democrats have demanded to know why she supports giving parents freedom to choose their kids’s schools when so many hinterland bigots will choose schools that don’t let boys shower with girls or lie to developing minds about basic biology and its implications for their identity.

These questions led to a media divebomb this summer on a Christian school in Indiana that accepts voucher students and whose policies reflect the Ten Commandments’ prohibition against sexual immorality. Subsequently, Indiana outlets have begun investigating which in-state private schools are “anti-LGBT,” meaning require students to adhere to centuries-old prescriptions for chastity that apply to those of all sexual attractions.

Through reviews of publicly posted handbooks and phone calls, journalism nonprofit Chalkbeat Indiana found 27 “anti-LGBT” schools and created a comprehensive database of in-state private schools’ sexuality and admissions policies. Just in case, you know, rainbow protesters wanted to show up at a few, or know where to enroll their gender-dysphoric kindergarteners and then sue.

It also quoted a professor who says “allowing some schools to discriminate against LGBT students on the basis of religion is no different than racial discrimination.” You read that right. Orthodox Christianity, Judaism, and Islam are morally equal to racists. It’s not surprising, then, that in this political environment about 80 percent of Indiana private schools keep their sex policies off the Internet and don’t return reporters’ phone calls to reveal them.

In Indiana, private schools must be accredited by either the state or one of seven private accreditors approved by the state board of education to accept students through one of the state’s two private choice programs. Chalkbeat, another Gates Foundation grant recipient, singled out the Association of Christian Schools International, an organization with 3,000 member schools, for offering a sample sexual ethics policy that repeats standard Christian teachings about the proper use of sexuality — within marriage between two opposite-sex people.

Discrimination Based on Behavior Is Not Like Racism

Chalkbeat referred to sex-specific policies and safeguards as “discrimination,” implying an equivocation between racial discrimination and behavior expectations. But race is an immutable fact, not a behavior. This is one of the reasons discrimination on its basis is so unjust. Yet we as a society discriminate based on behavior all the time, and we must to stay civilized, as well as to preserve our constitutionally guaranteed rights to free exercise of religion and freedom of association.

We sometimes treat the sexes distinctly, and create special, sometimes separate, environments for those who are emotionally troubled. There are sensible reasons for these that are not in the same ballpark as racism. The leftists harping on this topic are essentially demanding a religious litmus test — the adoption of the moral belief that every sexual practice must be affirmed — as a precondition for educating children. It is starting with public and private schools, but will eventually encompass “outliers” such as homeschoolers. None of us are safe unless we band together and stop this crazy train in its tracks.

A key problem is that Republican-led statehouses are the ones guarding school choice programs, and these same statehouses can barely muster the votes to protect children in public schools from being forced into unisex shower and sleeping quarters. Just two days ago Texas Speaker Joe Strauss torpedoed a special session that was set to consider both a bathroom bill and a school choice bill, and the state is in desperate need of both. Despite the lack of federal laws banning sexuality-based policies even when rational, such as in public showers and sports competitions, courts are already busy writing this religious (and antiscientific and inhumane) litmus test into existing sexual-privileges laws for women.

Chalkbeat put its recent set of articles on these topics under the heading “Choice for Some.” It’s an ironic slogan given that the logical end of their rhetoric is choice for none. Eradicating all social and ethical policies based on the distinctions between the sexes herds everyone into an Potemkin genderless society whether we consent to that arrangement or not. Some may feel that’s progress; others may call it totalitarianism.

anti-religion, bias, bigotry, children, corruption, culture, education, extremism, ideology, indoctrination, intolerance, left wing, liberalism, political correctness, progressive, propaganda, reform, relativism, scandal, tragedy

Filed under: anti-religion, bias, bigotry, children, corruption, culture, education, extremism, ideology, indoctrination, intolerance, left wing, liberalism, political correctness, progressive, propaganda, reform, relativism, scandal, tragedy

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