21 July 2006

Today's Wrong-Headed Opinion Pieces

Note from the LuapHacim, 11/14/2012: The views expressed in this post do not necessarily reflect my current beliefs and convictions. Even if they do, I would almost certainly express them in different words today. Time changes people, and I am not exempt. Nonetheless, because of its historical value, I will not modify or remove this post. It tells you (and me) something important about where I've been. Read on at your own peril.

First up, a New York Post editorial on the middle eastern conflict:
Israel must be allowed to do the work envisioned by U.N. Resolution 1559 - which calls for the disarming of Hezbollah in southern Lebanon.

This will not only eliminate a threat to Israel (and punish a group that has slaughtered Americans, too); it will also help rein in Syria, and its patron, Iran.

And that is in America's interest.

Israel will likely take significant casualties. And that's a tragedy. But the Israeli Defense Force is serving a vital cause. If it's successful, peace in the Middle East will be that much closer.
This is just one example of the institutionalized pro-Israel stance that permeates the American media and political environment. We get the idea that, because Israel has more international clout and had its statehood established by the U.N., it is somehow more valid or acceptable than other nations (that are not also sanctioned nation-states).

The net result of this institutionalized bias is a binarized rhetoric that villifies all anti-Israeli groups and casts Israel as a stalwart hero. It also allows us to overlook things like this:
The United Nations' emergency relief co-ordinator, Jan Egeland said that neither Hizbullah or Israeli seemed to care about civilian suffering. He said that one third of those killed or wounded have been children, and that it has been difficult to reach the wounded in Lebanon because road and bridges had been cut by Israeli air strikes.
The U.N. has indicated that both countries could face war crimes charges. Where's your moral high ground now, Moses?

The second opinion piece I'd like to look at is an op-ed by Sol Stern, who laments the "problem" of social justice education. He writes,
The root of the problem is "social justice" education. It starts in teacher preparation programs, where rigorous training in math, science and literacy takes a backseat to theories about victimization and inequality. Teachers-to-be are told that conventional instruction is an outgrowth of capitalist oppression; "true" education helps students see the unfairness all around them and challenge society to change.
He goes on to assault Freirian pedagogy and schools' attempts to change society by focusing on social problems. He saves a special vial of wrath for the Bronx's Leadership Institute, where:
When I visited recently, it was already clear that the idea of democratic empowerment for the students was subverting any hope for a rigorous education. Kids wore ghetto garb, chewed gum, and drank soda in class.
 It is interesting that these three things (none of which have a lot to do with pedagogical devices or the value of skills or knowledge acquired) are taken as a sure sign of corruption in the academic environment.

The problem here is that Stern is so wedded to a phallic academic hegemony that he is incapable of even considering alternatives to his monolithic ideal. Why, for instance, shouldn't kids drink soda or chew gum in class? It happens in the university classroom, and no one bats an eye. More troubling is his assumption that "ghetto garb" creates an environment that is inherently problematic for learning. He racializes the pursuit of knowledge and, in doing so, betrays the fact that his assumed academic environment is one that conveniently ignores the existence of a world outside the classroom.

Stern concludes,
Social justice teaching is a frivolous waste of precious school hours, especially for poor children, who start out with a disadvantage. School is the only place where they are likely to obtain the academic knowledge that could make up for the educational deprivation they suffer in their homes. The last thing they need is a wild-eyed experiment in education through social action.
Embedded in this paragraph is a rat's nest of problematic assumptions, many of which are contradictory. I don't especially want to deconstruct the whole thing, so let me just highlight the most glaring assumptions here:


  • Poor children are "disadvantaged," "deprived" of education and therefore should be taught "the fundamentals" -- this is a generalization that again privileges the white, middle-class existence
  • Poor children are the only ones who teachers are trying to help through these programs of social education -- This helps to create a dichotomy of the unmarked us vs. Them (those poor, benighted, disadvantaged masses), as well as a dichotomy between the unmarked teachers (those who buy into bourgeois conceptions of education) and Them, the hapless and incapable group that uses Marxist theory in a vain attempt to better people's lives
  • We need to help the Disadvantaged by teaching them how to try to compete in a system in which they are inherently disadvantaged
  • Attempting to make systemic changes in order to level the social playing field is frivolous
  • Radicals who act on their convictions are "wild-eyed" ideologues who make oppression worse despite their best efforts to the contrary

Urgh.

3 comments:

marshwiggle said...

so.. the moral high ground is lost because the UN could charge both sides with war crimes? :) Is this the oil for food/child rape/genocidal ignorant UN we're using as a judge here? :) Just checking.

luaphacim said...

hehe -- Don't get me started on the U.N. If we take them out of the picture, my claim remains the same: Israel can have no moral high ground when they are using military tactics that target a large segment of the civilian population.

luaphacim said...

My more recent post clarifies this a bit, I think... maybe? :-)