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

Monday, July 25, 2022

Why White Nationalist, Larry Arnn, Says Professional Teachers Are the "Dumbest"

In 2011 the neo-conservative website, Human Events, published its list of the ten most harmful books of the 19th and 20th Centuries.  Coming in at #5, right between The Kinsey Report and Das Kapital, was Democracy and Education by John Dewey.  While it may be obvious why wealthy white supremacists would flag Marx and Kinsey, why John Dewey, you may ask.  

The giveaway is in the title, of course, because Dewey's posited that the American democratic aspirations made explicit in the Bill of Rights and other founding documents might be achieved only through the practice of democratic living, which would include, of course, democratic schooling. 

Rather than modeling an embryonic form of democratic living, as Dewey would have schools do, elite paternalists like Arnn want schools to promote an extreme conservative mash-up of protestantism, capitalism, and jingoistic patriotism.  And since 2011, conservatism has become even more narrow, more strident, and more hostile to public institutions that promote democracy.  

The conservative movement has known for decades that the inevitable browning of America and the continued secularization of the Western world would eventually endanger America's 400-year rule by white protestant male elites, and so it comes as no surprise to see Arnn's employer, Hillsdale College, pushing hard to 1) seed its right wing corporate charter schools in as many parts of the country as possible, and 2) attack, diminish, and smear the concept and practice of public education whenever possible.

Before coming to Hillsdale College as President, Arnn spent 15 years as President of the Claremont Institute (1985-2000), which is the intellectual home of John Eastman, who most recently provided the "legal" argument upon which the 2001 Trump insurrection was based. Today Hillsdale serves as a training ground for future Institute "scholars" like Eastman and his fascist collaborators at Claremont.  

This closed circuit between Claremont and Hillsdale that Arnn now oversees constitutes the politically-indecent pseudo-intellectual circle jerk that remains one of the leading threat to American democracy and the rule of non-sectarian law in this country.

Arnn also serves as education advisor to Tennessee's governor, Bill Lee, who you will see in this video sitting quietly on the stage and sipping from his water bottle as Arnn entertains a closed-door meeting of like-minded crusaders with the most outrageous insults and lies about teachers, teacher preparation, and public education in general.  

Since Arnn's comments last month, Lee has said nothing to repudiate Arnn's insults. Last Wednesday Lee did say that he has conversed with Arnn since then, and that "he talked, and I listened." Sounds about right. 

Friday, July 01, 2022

DeSantis Delegitimizes Social Studies Teaching in Florida

Ron DeSantis is working overtime in Florida to become the next fascist darling of the white nationalist political movement that was awakened from its John Birch Society crypt and then enabled, emboldened, and set loose by the only president in US history to stage an attempted coup in order to remain in power after being rejected by the nation's voters. 

DeSantis has been a quick study in the dark arts of political thuggery, gangster tactics, and shameless bullying, and he has steadily embraced and codified at the state level much of the John Bircher agenda aimed to maintain political power and social control by the white Protestant capitalist male elite, in charge since Colonial Days. 

With the inevitability of brown and black folks moving to majority status in the U.S. (as they are NOW globally), and with the fact that public school student populations are already majority black and brown, the white nationalist push is urgent to purpose schools with Jim Crow 2.0 agenda of civic indoctrination and historical miseducation.

In order to align Florida's social studies curriculum with proto-fascist standards, DeSantis's henchmen had to look no further than pedagogical antiquarians at Hillsdale College, whose ultra-conservative ideology undergirds every facet of the Hillsdale College curriculum and the K-12 materials they have assembled and are marketing to every red state governor now intent that children should be steered away a factually accurate and inclusive accounts of history and civics instruction grounded in democratic principles and practices.

The Miami Herald has a great piece on DeSantis's indoctrination program now being pushed in professional development sessions across Florida, with some great examples of how the materials obfuscate, warp, and mislead teachers. Below are a few clips:

Teachers who spoke to the Herald/Times said they don’t object to the state’s new standards for civics, but they do take issue with how the state wants them to be taught. “It was very skewed,” said Barbara Segal, a 12th-grade government teacher at Fort Lauderdale High School. “There was a very strong Christian fundamentalist way toward analyzing different quotes and different documents. That was concerning.”

The civics training, which is part of Gov. Ron DeSantis’ Civics Literacy Excellence Initiative, underscores the tension that has been building around education and how classrooms have become battlegrounds for politically contentious issues. In Florida, DeSantis and the Republican-led Legislature have pushed policies that limit what schools can teach about race, gender identity and certain aspects of history.

Those dynamics came into full view last week, when trainers told Broward teachers the nation’s founders did not desire a strict separation of state and church, downplayed the role the colonies and later the United States had in the history of slavery in America, and pushed a judicial theory, favored by legal conservatives like DeSantis, that requires people to interpret the Constitution as the framers intended it, not as a living, evolving document, according to three educators who attended the training. 

“It is disturbing, really, that through these workshops and through legislation, there is this attempt to both censor and to drive or propagandize particular points of view,” said Richard Judd, 50, a Nova High School social studies teacher with 22 years of experience who attended the state-led training session last week.

Read more at: https://www.miamiherald.com/news/local/education/article262941378.html#storylink=cpy