Wednesday, March 02, 2005

Snot-nosed kids in Park Slope

I am coming in to this story rather late, I know. But it has been on my mind a lot. Some sixth graders in Park Slope, Brooklyn (not all that far from me) were assigned, by their teacher to send letters to soldiers in Iraq. Somehow these letters made their way to Korea instead, and went to a young private from New Jersey stationed near the North Korean border. Many of these letters were filled with contempt for soldiers, President Bush, and the war. Moreover, they were insisting that the soldiers will be dieing by the tens of thousands, and few of them will come home. They also wondered why the soldiers sit around and shoot civilians and destroy mosques.

Now, I remember what it was like to be in sixth grade. I knew nothing about how the world worked. War was something on TV and in movies. Shooting civilians, insurgents, terrorists, etc were all the same to me. I coun't keep track of all these things. I could barely tell our guys from their guys. When I was in sixth grade the only way I could have said something that would have even resembled an opinion was if someone was feeing me lines that I could just repeat.

And I know that some kids in JHS51 in Brooklyn are not getting a much better education than I got in sixth grade.

All this means that we have teachers and parents who are too scared to send letters to soldiers in Iraq in their own name, so they indoctrinate their children, and have them write letters. Pathetic. Adults should not have to hide behind thier children to criticize a president by insulting and demoralizing a 20-year old who knows little more about what is going on than anyone else.

A democratic education starts when we educate children with facts. We don't feed them horror-story make-believe lines about how everyone is going to die, and how Americans sit around and burn-down mosques. We don't scare children in to believing something that is contrary to common sense in the name of educaating them.

The electorate in this country is getting dumber and dumber. The fault lies squarely with those who value ideology over education. The right does it with evolution and religion, the left does it with politics, religion, ethics, and rationality.

That teacher should be fired, not because he sits around and hates the system who provides him with the freedom to hate the system, but because he is violating everything important about human dignity. Humans should be able to look at the world and make up their own minds. If students have already made up their minds by sixth grade, it means that someone has done it for them. They have been intellectually raped. They deserve better.


30 something said...

The answers to this lie in the Necker Cube and in some of C.J. Yung’s writing on individuation.

30 something said...

I meant C.G Jung.

KC said...

Feel free to explain.

Josie said...

30 something, could you explain here? Because I'm curious too. :)
After Vietnam, soldiers came home to screams of "babykillers" from leftists who were frothing at the mouth. Democracies require protection, there's a huge chunk of the world that would love to destroy these kinds of values. I'm not comparing Iraq to Vietnam, I don't think it's much of a comparison at all, but this sort of indoctrination rings a bell. The soldiers out there are pretty cognizant of their mission and they're doing a hugely important job. What was that jackass teacher thinking? Probably an ex-hippie who became a socialist yuppie with mush between his ears from the LSD. asshole.

30 something said...

Well, the Necker Cube is one of these great creations of psychology that is both fun in and of itself, and is also a metaphor for many things in life. A few aspects of the Necker cube are known to everyone. For example, there are two ways that it can be perceived. This by itself is enough to make the cube important since to any thinking person this should be definitive proof that behaviorism is nonsense because one and the same stimulus can produce multiple cognitive representations i.e. its not the stimulus that matters but the mental process.
For those poetically inclined this can serve as a metaphor for life’ many dichotomies, especially in politics, religion etc. Like in the Necker Cube there are usually many ways to see one and the same set of evidence.
The other thing about the Necker cube is that once you see it one way you cant see it the other way, and when you finally manage to switch other way you cant change it back again. This is how people develop intellectually. Being young is all about seeing everything from one perspective. I remember reading on of Alexander Solzhenitsyn’s novels where the main character as a student complains that just when he makes up his mind about something he hears some professor make a different point and he cant help but change his mind again. The back and forth of this was driving him crazy.
He was actually way ahead of most people who never go through the back and forth of it all and are left with just one view to which they stick their whole lives.
The thing that most people don’t realize is that it gets easier and easier to switch back and forth with the Necker cube if you just keep trying. Look at it long you will see both views simultaneously. In fact after a while it becomes hard to see how any one can fail to see both views at the same time (but that’s another story). This starts happening in the late twenties-- at least for me.
What I am saying is this. Intellectual development throughout life parallels the way we learn to perceive the Necker cube. Kids will see everything either one way or another—never both. You cannot teach kids to be open-minded toward all sides-- that’s not what kids do. Everyone does it and everyone gets angry about everyone else doing it-unless what the other people are saying doesn’t contradict their beliefs.
Take evolution for example. Most people don’t understand evolution. But most people have made up their minds about it –one way or another. They have restricted their perception to a particular view of the cube. You really have to know way too much to be able to see evolution from both sides. Suffice it to say that if both sides of the argument aren’t compelling there is a very good chance that you don’t understand the complexities of the issue.
Education is brain washing no matter how you cut it so there is no sense at getting mad at liberals for doing for they do. You cannot teach kids the complexities of any issue. As a teacher one can one hope to instill in them the value of the Cube.

Karl said...

I couldn't disagree more. Certainly you are right that there are many issues that have two sides. Sometimes there are two plausible sides (the Necker cube) and some time there is a right side and and wrong side. (The non-Necker cube.)

Sometimes it is unclear which type of cube this is.

My point in the original post was that when all this is unclear, the point of a democratic ediucation should be to teach children to decide for themselves. To the extent that they cannot choose forthemselves, they really should not be handed an opinion. There is nothing wrong with sixth graders not having any idea what to make of this. It is fine for a sixth grader to be nieve about war. It is actually preferable then just handing them a VERY controversial opinion, and expressing it as fact.

I find it annoying when parents do this about religion and politics. (Here in the US, Right-wing parents tend to do this about religion, and left-wing parents tend to do this about politics.)

I find it UNACCEPTABLE when public schools do this. Schools funded by the public have no more business giving children political opinions than they do giving religious ones.

One goal of a good public education is to make children good citizens, not good liberals, and not good conservatives.

Perhaps good citizens are taught what you called "the value of the cube". But to tell students that there is one way to see it, and that is the right way, is very different from either not talking about it, or saying something like "the US is at war. Some people support it and others don't. Some think we are helping the people in Iraq, and some think we are not."

To solicit hate-mail to send overseas is just unconsionable. There is nothing cubical about that.