Monday, February 26

Hothouse Cabbages

Kim du Toit, "Not That Kind"

"Dr." Helen, "Is Eye Rolling a Sign of Intelligence?"

I'm not sure what happened; I had written one of those howlingly funny slice-o'suburban-life pieces about my wife's proclivities with the remote control (she hogs it; she runs endless laps at subliminal speed; she drives me crazy doing it: the sort of thing which has made me the much-admired Lileks of the Left). It turned--on a dime--into a screeching rant about a fashionably persecuted young Christian spelling bee champ, who, it turns out, doesn't know the definition of "Sabbath", and his mother, who graciously donates the time required to be Spokesperson for All of Christendom. Before I knew it this stuff was coming at me from all sides, including this comment from Tom Hilton at HFPST:
You know what a whole lot of religious people should give up for Lent? They should give up their exaggerated sense of grievance. Just a suggestion.

which I can't improve on however long I prattle away. Plus I thought the sudden darkening of tone destroyed the delicate interplay of our debate over The Gilmore Girls, which my wife thinks of as a quirky comedy and I think of as what the CIA got up to when surreptitiously dosing US population centers with psychotropic drugs proved infeasible.

And somehow I found myself reading "Dr." Helen, who gets the ball rolling downhill by indeed-linking to the hardscrabble du Toit clan, which linked right back to Madame Insty linking to a related piece she found "quite humorous and sad, both at the same time" and which, it turns out--you're sitting down, right?--was neither, (unless she meant the attempted humor was sad and the "factual" claims were funny, but I don't think she did, and besides, "ludicrous" is a perfectly good word and would have saved all that further exposition.)

Our theme here is that the Educational Establishment--you know, the one Establishment these people don't kowtow to--has conjured up the concept of Socialization (using Federal grant money, no doubt) in their never-ending efforts to wound homeschoolers. Du Toit calls the concept "a risible canard" and "specious nonsense", which raises the hope that it's Mrs. Pussification who's teaching the kids grammar.

We'd say the same thing about argumentation, but we've seen her work. The assumption of an opponent's bad faith--doesn't that demonstrate a lack of social skills? Maybe Kim du Toit is not the best person to evaluate the benefits of socialization.

But let's not waste too much time here. I don't have any more interest in the du Toit household than the Educational Establishment does. But there was one little bit I found somewhat shocking:
Another response is that the kids “miss out on so much”. Yeah, Daughter really misses that experience of perpetual teasing about her weight, and the physical bullying that went along with it, coupled with sadistic gym teachers who forced her to run a mile during PE class, in the hot sun.

We're going to ignore the fact that he calls his daughter "Daughter"; I'm guessing he'd already given all the good names to his guns.

First, this must be the sort of thing one encounters thirty times a day working in a complaint department or on a tech line: the "everything is totally fucked up and it's all your fault" routine, and we'll hazard a guess that at least 75% of the complainants have failed to read the manual or are flat out wrong. (The guy who manages my neighborhood liquor store keeps his competitors' ads in a folder under the cash register, and says that 90% of the time when a customer waves a bottle at him and tells him "you advertised this a dollar cheaper!" it's somebody else's ad.) Every time I hear these complaints about the system screwing somebody's precious Dependent I wonder how they live without telephones. My wife's email and school phone are posted in the student handbook. She deals with parents complaining about something or other all the time, not to mention the fact that there are four evening open houses per year. If little Dowry can't run a mile, if PE class was an exercise in sadism, who did you tell? Why didn't you tell the teacher, the principal, her guidance counsellor, and the school board that she would not run a mile, do anything outdoors, or get any exercise, and would sit out all those activities with your permission and at your insistence?

And don't get me wrong: being nominally socialized myself, I see both sides. Bullying and teasing are serious problems, and the response is not always sufficient. Our schools are, and traditionally have been, centers of enforced conformity and stifled creativity. But who wants them that way? Back to Basics, Increased (Armed) Security, harsher discipline, forcible "moral instruction"--what end of the political spectrum has been riding that pony for the past few decades?

Meanwhile, Dr. Mrs. Insty--the Anna Chennault of the Blogosphere--has unmasked the culprit: teachers are just skin-wrapped bags of ego and insecurity who channel their personal misery into the Educational Establishment. Really.
It seems to me that the main source of socialization for many kids, especially smart ones in public school, is found in learning how to cope with the egos of teachers who can't teach and other kids who are uninterested in learning anything beyond dominating the social hierarchy.

The woman is, so far as we know, a practicing psychologist and the mother of school-aged children who are not tutored at home--has she ever met, or spoken with, her children's teachers? Does she still allow those Ticking Time Bombs near her precious offspring?

Pfui. Read the satire that inspired this crap--we know it's a satire, because it says so right in the title, but feel free to read it with a mouthful of coffee. Little Elasah, the gifted scion of a family of religious maniacs, throws hissy fits worthy of the roadshow choreographer at a Chorus Line revival because he's smarter than all the other children, imagines the rules don't apply to churchgoers (where'd he ever get that idea?), and Doc Helen's diagnosis is "his teacher's probably frustrated because she doesn't have a man"? I have to wonder what would have happened had she found out that Norah Vincent was posing as the boy's gym teacher?

And Mom objects to little Kohath being given extra work! What the H-E-double hockey sticks did she expect the school to do? Stop teaching everyone else whenever little Zephaniah started acting out? Granted, I was educated in the last century, but it seems to me that one good punch in the nose would do more for that kid than forced isolation in the Scripture factory will ever do.


Kim du Toit said...

"We're going to ignore the fact that he calls his daughter "Daughter"; I'm guessing he'd already given all the good names to his guns."

We refer to her as Daughter to preserve her anonymity (also, see "Son&Heir" and "#2 Son" in posts passim). She refers to me in her blog as "Father Figure" -- got any smart takes on that?

Incidentally: Daughter's grammar and sytax has tested out at post-grad level, and I did the teaching thereof. Does that say something about me, you, or the educational establishment you're bent on defending?

I especially liked the "hardscrabble Du Toit clan" sneer. It's hard to read past such exquisite condescension to the bullshit apologism which follows. (One would have thought that a progressive like yourself would think more about fixing what's wrong, but perhaps you believe the public school system is just dandy.)

But hey: don't take my word on how bad the public school system is. Read Sowell's book, unless you think that Uncle Thomas has wandered too far off the liberal Massa's plantation to be taken seriously.

I'm sure the world will forever mourn the loss of your "howlingly funny slice-o'suburban-life piece", if this is typical of your stuff. Or not, as it drops into the black hole of indifference reserved for those of little talent.

Lileks of the Left? If you are, you've just lived up to all my expectations.

Anonymous said...

She refers to me in her blog as "Father Figure" -- got any smart takes on that?

I assume "Mommy Dearest" was under copyright protection?

Read Sowell's book

Hey, I've got better things to do than spend all morning pawing my way to the bottom of the remaindered bin at Books-A-Million.

Lileks of the Left? If you are, you've just lived up to all my expectations.

I have to admit, I find this puzzling...Wingnuts are morally opposed to the HPV vaccine, but they apparently have no compunction about dropping trou and getting innoculated against irony.

Anonymous said...

I wonder what it says about the boundless egos of people who google themselves daily.

Me, I refer to my partner as "partner", without name or identifying info or even gender, at my partner's request. I can't tell you how often people have poked at me for it. You know what? I think it's kind of funny. The modern world forces us into odd contortions, which are all funny, whether they're at our expense or not. If someone suggested it was because I'm too caught up in my cats to remember my partner's name, my response would be the same as it is here, to Riley:

Stay right there. I'm going to come hang out in your driveway and write you love poems.

Because that gun thing was pretty funny, though maybe next time you could use it about Dick Cheney. I might write Tom a few love poems while I'm out there, too.

Nonetheless, someone may have missed, btw, the central point there. All your kids', and all of everybody else' kids', problems are not due to ego-ridden sexually frustrated teachers, nor to astoundingly broad generalisations based on individual anecdotes of how poorly kids are treated.

We, as Democrats, will be trying to fix the schools over the next few years, which will be made more complicated by NCLB and a sucking hole in the budget the approximate shape and size of Iraq.

But it's going to take a while. Until then, accept that teachers are profoundly overworked, class sizes are horrifyingly large, and the kiddies are spending all their time learning to take standardized tests. We'll work on it. Homeschool them if you need to until we fix it. (If nothing else, it'll give you guys something better to do with your time than plan how to destroy the educational system the next time you're back in power.) But don't expect that the teacher is going to be able to pull the whole classroom to a stop to work with any one kid, regardless of where his or her problems come from.

There's all these other kids in the room, and just the one teacher. I'm guessing most of them have a billion more immediate things to worry about while doing their jobs than their own personal problems, whatever they may or may not be.

Personally, I'm no more interested in reading Sowell's book than I am in reading O'Reilly's--the "liberal plantation" talk is an incredibly silly red herring. Why do I care anything about him beyond that his ideas have been, as I have seen them and to my mind, bad ones?

Is it possible all of this is based on an inability to make a distinction between "socialization" and "socialism"?

Anonymous said...

There is a desire by some in this country to destroy the public school system which has served our country, and continues to serve it, very well. I speak as one who has homeschooled (due to "reforms" by then-Gov W which made a 5-year group of children write abysmally) and as one whose son will graduate from public school next year.

Yes, there are bad teachers in the public school system. I had about 3 in my time there. My son has had 1 in his. Not bad. Contrast that to my husband's experience in Catholic schools in Detroit. He shudders when he sees nuns today. (OK, I'm exaggerating, but he's not a fan of private religious schools.) The fact is that most of the teachers are very good and care very much about their students.

golombek said...

Poor Kim - untalented, humorless, not nearly as smart as he thinks he is* - forced to listen to the hoots of derision aimed at him from the liberal plantation. No matter how seriously he takes himself, he can't stop us from laughing at him.

*I've worked with truly gifted-and-talented, top of their very difficult field, intelligent people, so I know smart when I read it. Kim sounds like a few people I've known who've bragged about their intelligence because their IQs were 115 or so.

And Zephaniah is a wonderful name.

Anonymous said...

I wonder what it says about the boundless egos of people who google themselves daily.

To be fair to KDT, he probably found the post through the miracle of trackback.

Anonymous said...

I love me some D.Sidhe in the morning. Or noon. Or night. KdT, thank you for your churlish comment, as it sparked yet another brilliant comment by my favorite-of-all-time commenters, the glorious D.Sidhe.

KdT, did you ever talk to the gym teacher on behalf of your daughter?