Thursday, April 24, 2008

Terrorism and Indoctrination vs. Education

Althouse touched off a vortex with her post on Obama and his association with terrorist Bill Ayers, about which she is rather blasé. I suppose I am, too, though Ayers is appalling, and even worse is the idea that he has a job that's normally associated with some prestige. He escaped persecution on a technicality and continues to operate while being completely unrepentant. It'd be like ESPN hiring O.J. Simpson, even as Simpson confirms periodically on the air that not only did he kill his wife, she deserved it and he wishes he could've finished off her family.

But it's a fact of life that such people run around the far left and far right extremes of society, and a fact that leftists are not punished for their associations with such people the way rightists would be (and are for much less). One effect of that fact is that left-leaning politicians are going to have connections with them without thinking much about it.

But it brings up an interesting point that comes up a lot, and which is illustrated by a clip that Hector posted on his site a while back (and references in the comments at Althouse): We are still fighting the USSR. Joe McCarthy may have been a paranoid freak, but he was right about a lot of stuff. In particular, the Soviets ran an anti-America campaign that poisons thought against the US even as we approach 20th anniversary of their fall.

The areas that the KGB infiltrated most successfully were education, politics and entertainment. This is why you see so much anti-American stuff in these corners. The last two issues are interesting in and of themselves, but the education issue came up a lot in this thread. In particular, education versus indoctrination.

There can be no doubt that US schools indoctrinate. And that they indoctrinate in environmentalism is no more coincidental than Earth Day being on Lenin's birthday.

But does education have to be indoctrination?

I had a fight once with a friend over this. (I thought I had blogged about it here but I can't find the previous entry.) My argument was that you give kids the facts and let them come to their own conclusions. She was outraged because, well, What if they come to the wrong conclusions?

Yes. What if? I love this argument because it presupposes that you know what the wrong conclusions are. But we're never aware of our own blind spots.

It's been a blast teaching the boy history because, well, I don't really teach him history. I tell him to research certain topics and write about them. This pays off pretty well, and has the advantage that I can ask him what he thinks about the topic, and he's willing to defend his point-of-view because it's his point-of-view and not mine!

Do I find it a little disturbing that he's a gun-totin', hippie-hatin', America-lovin' right winger? Sure, sometimes.

I'll be more disturbed if The Flower stays with her flower-lovin', earth-saving left wing ways--which are pretty normal for a 6-7 year-old girl--if she keeps them into her teens and they continue to be based on what the Disney channel tells her. (It's fine with me if she turns out to be The Boy's polar opposite, but I want that to be a result of her own reason.)

Now, what about manners, morals and other social matters? Don't they need to be indoctrinated into children? Not at all. It's very much like any other form of education. Let me elaborate:

The boy studies US History, math, literature and grammar, penmanship, various sciences, music and computer programming. That's apart from more hobby-ish subjects like chess and karate.

Why these subjects? Well, he wants to program games, so that's why he does that. Science holds some interest him, so that's his motivation here. And he's begun to find history compelling. But the rest? Well, for one thing he doesn't want to look like a moron.

Educational pressure is totally inverted in school. To be cool is to not care about learning things. The student is ostracized for doing well in many cases. The Boy looks around and sees his peers and is somewhat embarrassed. I think this is probably a healthy reaction: Most of us have a combination of naive energy and ignorance as teens, and we're not smart enough to be embarrassed about it until we're older.
But part and parcel of not looking like a moron is simply recognizing what our culture considers important. And the same thing goes for manners, morals, ethics, traditions, etc.

That's why, when you eat, you don't make a pig of yourself, why you don't fart in polite company, why you're polite, and so on. It's a mistake to put this in as indoctrination: As education it becomes a tool for success, something you can adapt if your circumstances change without being offended.

Oddly enough, while we never much dwelled on it, the children are startlingly polite in public. It's startling because in the relaxed atmosphere of home, flouting manners or even rational conversation is a game they occasionally play. But out in the world, they're all "please" and "thank you" and "you're welcome", and have been since they first learned to speak.


  1. Here's a tinfoil-hat theory for you: There is so much flakiness in Joe McCarthy's background (the gambling, the accusation of homosexuality), that I have wondered, on the basis of no evidence at all, if he might have been the object of blackmail by the USSR. The plan would be to have the tool in a high place conduct an investigation of Communists in high places so maladroitly that the very idea of accusing someone of being a Communist would be laughed out of town. Isn't that just what happened? And his personal deterioration, the alcoholism and what all, inability to remember how many names were on the list, looks like stress from the conflict of being a patriotic American who was suffering from conflicts that he could not cope with.

    I reiterate: No evidence at all. But if I were a subtle KGB man, I might have thought of this. "Boris - can we make it so that even looking for our pipples is socially unacceptable?"

  2. I dunno. I don't think it could've turned out any different, one man vs. the KGB agitprop. He's pretty much the #1 enemy of America (certainly on the left), and has been for 50-odd years.

  3. It would make a great movie (or novel), though. More-or-less honorable guy with dark secrets, by 1940's or '50's standards, made to screw up something that he knows needs to be done, while trying to give the impression that he is doing his best to accomplish the thing. Very noir. (Thanks for the recommendation of "I Wake Up Screaming.") I can see Orson Welles in the role of the tormented Senator.

  4. I can't see it being made today, but yeah, it could be good.

    Put Vincent D'Onofrio in the Orson Welles role. He's starting to pack on the pounds.

  5. I was actually thinking of a slimmer Welles than the wine salesman, something between The Third Man and A Touch of Evil, which would be Man in the Shadow? Another one missing from Netflix. D'Onofrio doesn't seem to have the gravitas, not the same thing as weight. Sydney Greenstreet wouldn't be right for it either; John Doman, maybe. Yes, I can see Doman, unshaven and drunk, waving a piece of paper around, while Roy Cohn eggs him on from the sidelines. All right now, who is Cohn? The portrait at Wikipedia looks so much like a dissolute Mike Huckabee that I'm gobsmacked. But though Huckabee will play the electric bass in public for free, or was that for votes, I doubt if the money could be found to get him to play Roy Cohn in a movie.

  6. Ah, "The Wire" pops up as a regular theme on this blog, and I have yet to watch it.

    You'd need someone for the lead who could still be likable even though he was, in some ways, quite scuzzy. But not like a Johnny Depp handsome, either, because you'd be wanting someone who had more of a brutish righteousness.

    Michael Chiklis?


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