A target-rich environment

If you dare to enter the treasure trove of North Carolina Wingnuts you’ll find – as we say in the military – a target-rich environment. Especially at the Pope-a-dope Center, where ideology trumps intellect at every juncture . . . and liberal thinking is the source of all evil. Take George Leaf, for example (please!) and his dazzling insights on public education.

First the breathtaking generalization to obscure reality and truth:

Today, your typical high school graduate believes that school is just a rather boring, obligatory use of his time that is tolerable only because it leads to the paper credentials necessary to unlock the door to high-paying employment. Put a lot of young people with that attitude in a classroom and a professor has little choice but to water down the material and make sure he keeps the kids entertained.

It’s hard to even begin to respond to this kind of bullshit, so let me say this: It’s probably true in George’s intelligently designed world, where electoral success hinges on keeping people ignorant and uninformed.


But where Leaf really pisses me off is his reactionary rant about teachers.

It isn’t by accident that government schooling is the way it is. Millions of teachers are doing things exactly as they believe they should, or want to. The soft, undemanding approach to education suits most of them perfectly. Why, for example, is it now rare to find a teacher who will take a red (or purple or any other color) pen to a student essay and give it severe, line-by- line scrutiny? Without that, students simply won’t learn to write well. Alas, the idea that there are rules for good writing is now regarded by writing theorists as the stuff of Neanderthals. And besides that, grading essays takes a lot of time and criticizing the way students write is apt to make them upset. Even if the teacher were capable of giving students a useful writing critique (something we should not assume), it’s much easier not to bother.

Who is this jerk anyway? And has he ever met a teacher in real life? Has he ever tried to grade 35 essays for each of six classes? Has he ever tried to balance real learning with the sword of standardized testing undercutting his every instinct? What a fucking asshole.

Oddly enough, I agree with Leaf that there is much room for improvement within the public school system. Much room. But it’s unlikely we’ll find the answer in dissing hard-working teachers and students. And though Leaf argues that “something must be done,” he’s devoid of useful ideas beyond the standard “privatize” option we’ve come to expect from right-wing delusionals.

I’ve got a better idea. Make public schools the sole venue for selling Powerball tickets. (Oh my god . . . are you crazy? That would destroy mom-and-pop convenience stores all around the state! Gasp!) Now that would be an education lottery even a wingnut would appreciate.




I taught at a small college in South Carolina last year. I can tell you that whatever his wingnutedness, he isn't far off in the first quote you pasted. The seniors were a mixed bag of those who had managed to skid by for four years and those who excelled. The freshman class on the other hand, was awful. It isn't their fault, it is the fault of their peer environment, the high school system and this god-awful standardized test environment we live in today. They want a list of things to memorize, not to actually learn. They want entertainment, they want videos, they want games. I started the year teaching at the level I was taught in the late 80s - by the end of the semester I was giving quizzes out of the book and the class average was 5/10.

Again, many of the Seniors were as good as any I have met anywhere. But, in large, many incoming freshman DO believe that college is just something you do after high school.

I now live in a town that has two of the top high schools in the country, I overhear high school kids talking about reading The Odyssey for fun and taking summer college courses. They are taught to learn, they are taught to enjoy school. It's a different environment. Most of them have parents with higher education degrees, which the students in South Carolina did not. Most of them go to high school classes with peers that want to succeed, I would guess most of the students in South Carolina did not.

I don't think college is for everyone, I don't think everyone should go. I came from a small town, lots of my friends and family didn't go to college and they are as happy as anyone. If we paid a living wage for work, then perhaps everyone wouldn't feel the need to go to college. I can't tell you how many students must have paid (or their parents paid) $20K or $30K in tuition, plus housing and food for several years before they dropped out. That money could have paid for a trade school or a downpayment on a house - both of which would have made them more financially stable than what they did instead.

Jesus Swept ticked me off. Too short. I loved the characters and then POOF it was over.