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Looking back on my time as a teacher, I note with irony that there is a special breed of stupidity which only manifests in those who purport to transmit knowledge to others. Rest assured, it is they who are now in charge. There is no reasoning with them, there is no Socratic dialogue to discover the truth. Only the leftist narrative can thrive in the fallow ground of education in 2015 America.

The sheer ignorance of those tasked with this charge can only be matched by their arrogance. This is displayed in many different facets. Just one example to be explored here is the propensity of modern literature instruction to assume the form of “thematic units.” Because it is not enough to pass on the great literature to the next generation; no, there must be some greater task for the leftist (largely) female English teachers.

 

The Messengers

A thematic unit is just the right pretension to puff up their absurd notions of intellectualism. Such pretentions in these teachers are so delusional that a mere word; nay, a look, can pop the bubble and they vanish into the nothingness that they always were. Because these teachers who are so intent, almost psychotically so, on doing good, are just too dumb to see they are doing bad, and would have been better advised not to have gotten out of bed in the morning.

They truly personify all the naivety and cluelessness expressed in the term “do gooder.” They take it for granted that their job is to disseminate the cultural Marxism which they have absorbed uncritically (and indeed unwittingly) from the wider culture on to students. Any subject matter teaching which might occur during the process is viewed as entirely incidental. Yet it would be quite futile to try to explain this to such teachers. What they lack in logical deduction, they make up for in earnestness. It is a rather unfortunate combination.

I should probably add as a caveat, though it abruptly breaks with the thrust of my essay, that there are certainly some brilliant English teachers, tucked away perhaps at elite private schools, who surely know their subject well and are not enthralled to the leftist narrative. I have but rarely rubbed elbows with such gentlemen scholars. Suffice it to say they are an appreciated, yet rare exception.

 

The Ideological Component

If I were to be more cynical (or honest), I would note that the thematic approach to literature not only avoids the pesky task of passing on our culture’s venerable literary canon, but actively seeks to tear it down. It does so in an onslaught of multiculti propaganda, authored by pretenders and imposters, with a familiar villain as the foil. In this regard, the thematic unit is another means of a putsch, an effort to hound traditionally minded teachers out of the profession and to alienate students of Western lineage from their own culture. Look around: Have they not wildly succeeded? We are sifting through the ashes of a scorched earth kulturkampf.

Practically speaking, a thematic unit provides the opportunity to dispense with the textbook altogether and assemble a hodgepodge of pieces by minority authors bitterly critical of Western culture. This may well describe textbooks themselves to some extent. But whereas a textbook receives much scrutiny, even some which should theoretically come from the right, a thematic curriculum can be distributed by a school district via a PDF file, all under the radar of the general public.

The dirty ideological work of the thematic unit is done quite easily under the general theme of “culture” or some variation thereof. From such an innocuous question as “What is culture?” we learn that pretty much every culture besides the West has something truly special to offer. How many times have I seen this insidious theme of “culture” in education transparently used to encroach upon the curriculum formerly constituted of meritorious literature?

A typical piece would be an individual struggling with two competing facets of their identity. On the one hand, they have their vibrant ethnic heritage; on the other, they are seamlessly navigating the mainstream culture. It is a motif in our newly and artificially contrived literary canon. I can only conclude that this is how the powers that be now define what it means to be American.

While I do not doubt for a minute that multiculturalism is the biggest scourge on education, in the interests of staying on topic, I cannot expound upon this angle in depth here; but I would like to return to the subject at a later date. And I have certainly touched upon it earlier.

 

Thematic Units

Generally speaking, what “thematic instruction” means is that a unit of literature is taught under the rubric of an “essential question,” “What is culture?” being just one example. An “essential question” is cooked up by a coterie of textbook editors, notable only for their diversity, and certainly devoid of any other redeeming qualities. The “essential question” is marked by a vacuity that only the education industry could manage. Another particularly egregious, but representative example:

Is truth different from reality?

To give yet another example, Pearson prefaces Shakespeare’s Julius Caesar with the query: “To what extent does experience affect what we perceive?” Why didn’t Shakespeare think to add this navel gazer to his folio? This essential question is returned to at the end of each act with a comprehension question which ties into it. This is not hard to do, as the essential questions are so far reaching and broad that literally any line of inquiry can be said to fall under its purview. For example, the comprehension question,“How does Brutus’ speech help you understand how he feels about Caesar?” arguably relates to how Brutus’ experience has shaped his perceptions; though again, the essential question also relates to practically any question.

One might say that works of literature have questions they pose by implication of the theme, and that a good teacher would extricate those questions and crystallize them throughout the study of a book. One of those rare intelligent private school English teachers posed an essential question for Macbeth along the lines of “What does it mean to be a man?” This is perfectly acceptable and relevant to the play (“I dare do all that may become a man”). And it was especially apropos at a boys’ school.

Yet somehow the actual practice of posing essential questions has become an exercise in either leftist propaganda or trite navel gazing. This is because of the nefarious nature of the education industry, and the incompetence of teachers and textbook publishers.

In yet another irony, English teachers (again mostly women and, increasingly, gay men) who so long to concoct “conceptual” lesson designs have almost no ability to think conceptually. When they muck around with the curriculum, therefore, they inevitably make everything worse and less coherent.

For example, I was once obliged to meet with my fellow teachers so that we could be in “lock step” in our lesson plans, which would actually be dictated by the district. This would be good, noted my department head, because then she “wouldn’t have to think.” The rather pointless question at hand was what activity to use in order to introduce Wiesel’s ubiquitous Night—because activities with no literary content are oh so vital in progressive education. The department head volunteered that she, in order to give students an idea of the experience of concentration camp inmates, had used a sharpie to write students’ school ID’s on their arms as they walked in the classroom. How’s that for “tactile learning”? Another woman suggested that we show the students pictures of concentration camps, only to reveal…they are American internment camps of the Japanese during WWII. So you see, we must never lose sight of how uniquely evil we are. And by “we,” she presumably did not mean to implicate her people, obese Latinas. This is just one example of “conceptual thinking” gone awry.

 

Conclusion

To propose that we need some other means to engage students in a text other than the text itself is a worrying sign that one does not really understand the material at hand at all. In my experience, this was almost always the case with English teachers. Let’s be blunt: these are lightweights who would prefer to read young adult lit like the Hunger Games along with their students. They’re easy marks for the liberal elites higher up the food chain in the educational establishment.

Naturally such English teachers cannot perceive genius when they encounter it, though they have a vague sense that certain works are important. So they instinctively twist and manipulate such works in a way as to advance one of their pet liberal causes, or otherwise pair the work with some platitudinous and irrelevant “essential question” that they have received from the professional literature.

Such questions are then to be mulled over with furrowed brow by armies of empty headed teachers, and confused yet perhaps willing-to-try students. What ridiculous answers will they concoct, when teacher and student, of barely distinguishable mental ability, put their heads together to ponder such questions?

Malcolm Unwell is a chronicler of America gone wrong and aspires to be a malevolent voice in journalism. Contact him.

 
• Category: Ideology • Tags: Political Correctness, Public Schools 
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  1. J says:

    Nice pic. My bank uses it on its site. To show their friendliness. Didn’t know she was an American teacher.

  2. ”Is truth different from reality?”

    Nope, because is like ”feelings” and ”emotions”. Words with very similar if not identical concepts.

    Truth is the feeling that something is real, generally, in the subjective, abstract and/or meta-explicit. Reality is the certainty that this feeling is real, specially the abstract reality, see beyond immediate space and time where all of us live constantly. Reality is unpersonal, exist with or without human understanding. Truth is a human way/method to capture the reality.

    Is like also to see to this animaland call him as ”cow”.

    ”We” look for evidences/facts/ and harmonic considerations and give them a name of ”truth”.

    In the case of cow, we search for familiar forms/shapes for give them this name. A name is a visual concept itself, a concept without semantic explanations. And many if not almost of ”visual concepts” or ”names” are onomatopoeia-like.

    Real truth need to be understood by multiple perspectives and not by common human way to capture her, i mean, reductive rationalizations or unbalanced personal point of views, analitic and deductive egocentric approach.

    • Replies: @robt
  3. robt says:
    @Santoculto

    Sorta like Kierkegaard, but with sizzle and a cow.
    Paraphrasing Kenny describing the ideas of Kierkegaard, ‘Language consists of propositions which picture the world. Propositions are the perceptible expressions of thoughts, and thoughts are logical pictures of facts’. Presumably if we analyse language, we can determine reality, i.e. truth. Not onomatopoeia, but mental image.
    When reading the book Language, Truth and Logic by A J Ayer (later in life he thought the book ‘a young man’s book’, i.e. somewhat too certain), think about subjective and objective universalism, and analytic and synthetic propositions. A synthetic proposition can always be verified but never proved and an analytic proposition can always be proved but never verified.
    Like (real) conservatives, who confront and respond to reality, and modern (crypto-Marxist) ‘liberals’, who make things up and then make everything agree.
    Nation-state-wise, E pluribus unum vs ex uno plures.

    • Replies: @Santoculto
  4. Curle says:

    The department head volunteered that she, in order to give students an idea of the experience of concentration camp inmates, had used a sharpie to write students’ school ID’s on their arms as they walked in the classroom. How’s that for “tactile learning”?

    Perhaps we can take comfort in the example of forced integration (busing). Black sociologists who originally championed the endeavor later changed course concerned at evidence showing the practice lowered rather than raised white perceptions of black aptitude. I’ve no doubt that some of the brighter students are going through these exercises and gaining their first real understanding that the adult world can, in fact, be inhabited by morons.

  5. And people wonder why I always reacted angrily to even the slightest suggestion that I pursue a teaching career.

    The vast majority of people cannot benefit from higher education, have no use for higher education, and do not understand what it means to be educated in the traditional sense. Nevertheless, the relentless cultural and parental pressure to shove everybody into school (supposedly to ensure their “success”) and their willingness to pay good money for the same, necessitates a legion of sub-par teachers to babysit the putative pupils and provide that they turn out with some semblance of instruction. The result is the unknowledgeable instructing the uneducable; or as another Man put it, the blind leading the blind.

    Leftist cliches proliferate like viruses in such an environment. These simplified prog-nuggets, requiring a bare minimum of thinking to apprehend, are believable enough to mediocre intellects because they contain a germ of truth–they advert to a power structure which really does exist. Everything that liberals, marxists, feminists, and queer theorists have deconstructed over the years was there to be deconstructed precisely because it was real. The European hetero-normative patriarchal male presented them with such a solid target due to his inarguable success in the world of facts and reality; due to his oneness with that world. In the alternative world of criticism (which bears the same relation to the fact world as stand-up comedy bears to politics), this valuation received precisely the opposite sign, and was forthwith attacked with a flurry of academic papers purporting to discredit it. Not only does this give the Social Justice Warriors an inner feeling of righteousness, it allows them to think of themselves as “intellectual” as well.

    But nothing is stupider than this critical cosmopolitan intellect. Nothing is more arrogant than the sneering pride which takes in just enough of physical and metaphysical reality so as to ridicule it for its unfairness. This community of deluded mental cripples is what we nowadays call a “school.” The madness will not end until the modern fetish for universal compulsory education is finally broken.

    If we had a Pope, we could perhaps appeal to him for the suppression of the schools. Unfortunately, the current papal pretender calling himself Francis is one of their ilk.

    • Replies: @Santoculto
  6. @robt

    ”Not onomatopoeia, but mental image.”

    Seems reductive, why not onomatopoeia too??

    ”Sorta like Kierkegaard, but with sizzle and a cow.”

    Where cow word come from? where all words come from? Where the word ”cow” can express visually or biologically these nonhuman animal?

    Criticism without explanation is just personal opinion.

    ”analytic proposition can always be proved but never verified.”

    How something can be proved without previous verification? Analysis is integral part of verification process.

    ”Like (real) conservatives, who confront and respond to reality”

    Define real conversatives.

    ” E pluribus unum vs ex uno plures.”

    hocus pocus.

  7. @Intelligent Dasein

    ” Everything that liberals, marxists, feminists, and queer theorists have deconstructed over the years was there to be deconstructed precisely because it was real.”

    Of course, conservative matrix.

    Human populations have presented a variety of cultural behaviors and thus what is defined as real by the collective does not make it real in all human cultural environments.

    An important part of the leftist criticisms are correct. The biggest problem is not the leftist liberalism per se but the leftists who do not neurons enough to understand it (and its psychopathic ”elite”). And the same applies to any other ideology, nationalism white, capitalism even the official religions.

    Take any abstraction to a fool and he will do a nightmare.

  8. Next time Mr Unwell please start not with multiple blasts of wind but something concrete to grab the attention and the critical mind. It is very self indulgent to act as if you are just preaching to a very zealous choir. I think it is absurd to be giving a college education to more than about 25 per cent of 18-22 year olds at most but your rhetoric lost me early.

  9. guest says:

    I remember being surprised by Albert J. Nock’s “Memoirs of a Superfluous Man,” in which he talked about schools in the olden days not bothering to teach English. Not reading, mind you, but grammar, literature, and the like. He was confused by the very idea: having to be taught your own language. What need is there to teach you a novel if you can read it yourself? Either way, in fact, you have to read it yourself.

    I wasn’t surprised for long, as he was right. It is highly peculiar. You can teach yourself Latin, for instance, or math, but they’re tricky. You don’t need a teacher to teach you English if you already know it. We all want a literate citizenry, and blah, blah, blah, which is to practice reading as well as having the ability to read. But are all the hours we spend teaching English worth it on that account? Is it worth it to force people to do what they’re perfectly capable of doing on their own? And is that what education is about?

  10. “Thematic unit” isn’t just English class, it’s whole departments. There are disciplines, and there are “studies”.

    • Replies: @Malcolm Unwell
  11. @Reg Cæsar

    True. I suspect that social studies has become a kind of year long unit on civil rights, with various groups vying for the spotlight of victimhood. The main theme is that the West represents treacherous villains. If you have adopted this disposition, you have “learned.”

  12. Anonymous • Disclaimer says:

    In this regard, the thematic unit is another means of a putsch, an effort to hound traditionally minded teachers out of the profession and to alienate students of Western lineage from their own culture. Look around: Have they not wildly succeeded? We are sifting through the ashes of a scorched earth kulturkampf.

    Something that bugs me in the so-called Theory is the tendency to invalidate other economic, political, religious, philosophical, or scientific discourses as manifestations of oppressive ideology. Of course, a number of issues in our western society deserve criticism, but this ‘debunking’ agenda underlies many debates in the context of literature classes, reducing the text to an instrumental role for an indictment of the white male, the capitalist system, or whoever might fit the part of oppressor.

    This contestation of existing discourses often implies a utopian standpoint, which is perhaps one of the reasons why it is so pervasive in the humanities and social sciences. For lack of real-world examples of successful post-capitalist, post-national, or other such alternative societal arrangements, many critics are in an asymmetric position in relation to the object of their criticism, since their own claims cannot be subjected to the same scrutiny. Thus, the literature class becomes a site for denunciation of all the woes of western culture, while erasing much of what is great about the literary text and the culture in which it was created.

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