"A child's learning is the function more of the characteristics of his classmates than those of the teacher." James Coleman, 1972

Monday, May 28, 2007

Earth to Kristof, Come In Please

Mr. Kristof's family field trip to China is over, and he is back at the Times enthusing over all that his totalitarian Chinese government handlers allowed him to see there. For someone who shared a Pulitzer in 1990 with his wife for coverage of the Tiananmen Square massacres, which the Times now quaintly refers to as "Tiananmen Square democracy movement," Kristof seems to have forgotten about those atrocities as he now embraces the new China that is on the march to erase history as it builds an economic juggernaut based on slave labor and environmental degradation. (If you happen to read this, Mr. Kristof, do not think I am offending the Chinese people, for Yahoo and Google and Cisco have already provided the capitalistic-communist Chinese government with the tools to block this post, or any other "offensive" website from Chinese readers. Don't worry, however--your columns are getting through loud and clear.)

According to Mr. Kristof, China has a lot to teach us in terms of how to deal with the flooding of American markets with Chinese goods produced by throwaway workers earning 30 cents an hour in factories owned by multinational operations such as Wal-Mart. It's too bad Mr. Kristof apparently missed last week's Frontline piece on PBS, The Tank Man (watch it here). If he had watched it, he would have seen that the Chinese economic miracle is the result of a never-ending supply of disposable workers who earn 10-40 cents an hour to make all the draperies, fine bed linens, cutlery, electronic gadgets, and other finished goods that he and his family buy for their Manhattan home. I wonder is the Kristofs visited Tooth Brush City, Tennis Shoe City, or Condom City.

Apparently, Kristof attributes the rise of Chinese economic power to a rise of China's educational preparedness, where, according to Mr. Kristof, peasant schools teach math more advanced than the Daltons or the Horace Manns of Manhattan. It is clear that Mr. Kristof was allowed to visit a peasant village that was lucky enough to still have a school. As shown in The Tank Man, free schooling in China is a thing of the past, and the many peasant children in the countryside can no longer afford to attend. These are the children who grow up and who are starved toward the factory towns to earn slave wages if they are lucky. And health care? Government health care has simply disappeared in many parts of rural China, leaving adults and children to depend on folk medicine or die.

But these are the realties that are kept from the Kristofs of the world, the elites who are wined and dined and promised Olympic tickets in the glittering new urban centers of China, where children who are as coddled as Kristof's own grow up with the privileges of prosperity and wealth, children who become university students eager for a chance to earn their own million. These are the same university students we see near the end of The Tank Man, students who are very, very good at math, but who do not know who the tank man is when handed a photo showing that lone individual standing before the power of a totalitarian dictatorship in 1989. By the way, Mr. Kristof, if you had searched Google or Yahoo pages during your China holiday, you would not have found the tank man. With the help of Google, Yahoo, and Cisco, Chinese Internet Police have eliminated the tank man.

Mr. Kristof closes today's column with this threadbare banality that would seem to impose more Chinese-like schools as the way to staunch the incoming flood of cheap goods and the outgoing flood of American jobs:
So let’s not respond to China’s surpluses by putting up trade barriers. Rather, let’s do as we did after the Soviet Union’s launch of Sputnik in 1957: raise our own education standards to meet the competition.
Mr. Kristof, sir, do you think it was more math and science in American elementary schools that led to landing a U. S. citizen on the moon just 12 years after Sputnik in 1969, or do you think it could have had something to do with the political and economic will by business and government to focus a national strategy toward a shared national goal? Which is something entirely lacking at this juncture in this country, as oligarchs such as Bill Gates and Eli Broad push on toward our own homegrown totalitarianism headed by corporate socialists, Christian theocrats, and bought political hacks who have their own history to scrub and their own shame and corruption to conceal while torturing the powerless and a creating a social sorting machine that assures the powerless remain so. If today's opinion piece serves as an example, there are plenty at the New York Times whose selective memories now put them the proper orbits to assist. Earth to Kristof, come in please.

"Raise our education standards to meet the competition?" How callow, how hollow, how utterly disrespectful of our intelligence!

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