The Center for Literate Values ~ Defending the Western tradition of responsible individualism, disciplined freedom, tasteful creativity, common sense, and faith in a supreme moral being.
P R A E S I D I U M
A Common-Sense Journal of Literary and Cultural Analysis
10.2 (Spring 2010)
courtesy of artrenewal.org
Be a Culture-Warrior, Not a Cultural Cheese-Melt
Those of us who work for the state see waste, fraud, and incompetence every day. To say that we are automatically desensitized to the abuses because their author pays our salary is to be needlessly cynical. Not all members of the Teamsters’ Union are mobsters, nor all members of SEIU card-carrying communists: on the contrary. most are hard-working, responsible citizens, and many have socially conservative values. We public employees pay taxes just like butchers and bakers and candlestick-makers, and we hate to watch our pockets being picked. In fact, our work is often rendered much harder by endless piles of needless, usually downright stupid chores which lavishly paid bureaucrats heap upon us; so the considerably higher rate at which public servants are paid to Xerox and e-mail (about 20% to 30% more across the nation) is compounded by our having to witness, up-close-and-personal, just how badly the Xeroxing is done (I have had multiple jobs completely ruined) and just how mindlessly certain people feed e-mails into the system all day long (“cookies in the break room”, etc.).
I would venture to say, then, that few are better positioned to appreciate the potential virtues of home-schooling than employees of a public school system. Even in relatively small cities, public schools are often zoos whose keepers literally risk their lives every day. American society is melting down–not into a rainbow coalition, but into a toxic post-cultural brew of value-less codes whose terminal form is jungle law. Two parents are seldom behind the scene to assist in disciplining a “problem” student. Threats of lawsuit already lurk as soon as some elementary stricture–say, a prohibition of tank-tops–is enforced (and on occasions such as these one is likely to see the child’s parent for the first time, ironically). Most potentially good students never read any matter of any length or depth: their teachers feed them answers to tests and are happy when they retain enough to seed the class with A’s while those who never attend class, sleep through classes, or are intellectually incapable of learning pose constant worries. My son started high school this year–a private high school (where, nevertheless, he still successfully avoids reading in most subjects: his English teacher prefers to lecture the group on the ills of criminalizing marijuana). He is already, without any great effort on his part, writing better than 50% of my college freshman (for I eventually fled to college teaching, though its distinction from high-school teaching is growing ever more obscure).
High school students today, in short, are lucky if they emerge in their eighteenth year a) alive, b) without a baby at home, and c) with mastery of some computer-based technology such as website design. To set one’s sights much higher would be court the fate of Thales–tumbling into a pit while admiring the stars.
I think most home-schoolers are well aware of the first of two points which I wish to advance: that their task should not be to give their kids a “get by” curriculum patterned largely after a public school’s while providing a physically safe environment, but to reanimate Western civilization. Teaching To Kill a Mockingbird or Lord of the Flies without fear of anyone’s being stabbed or raped before the buses roll in is far too low an objective for those who have pledged themselves to this important work. Children should be surrounded with books of all kinds and encouraged to seek out favorite authors and genres. They should write daily about what they read, and also about what they haven’t read: they should eventually become writers themselves as well as readers. They should tackle texts which public schools are now terrified to touch for fear of lawsuit (and few will venture into Huckleberry Finn these days, let alone Heart of Darkness). They should match wits with texts whose language may be difficult because of dialect (e.g, The Master of Ballantrae) or because of age (e.g., Shakespeare’s plays). If they watch a video of Hamlet, they should be introduced to Gielgud or Oliver rather than the latest Hollywood heartthrobs. They should, in a nutshell, be doing things every day at home that many public-school teachers will not do in an entire career. They should be learning that culture which the public system–virtually every public system–is zealously stamping out, with or without the approval of individual instructors.
For my second point is just this: that “multiculturalism” or “diversity” (as this harmful absurdity is variously styled) is a complete scam. My son’s private school has Multicultural Day every year, and my university is currently hurling its resources into promoting a very ambitious foreign exchange program. The problem lies not with travel or with awareness of otherness: the problem lies with the implicit premise (the enthymeme, as Aristotle would have called it) that a vast relativity rules over all cultural matters. If we accept that this is so–and certainly cultural tastes in food and clothing give every indication of resulting from arbitrary conditioning–then the next step is to embrace the notion of cultural mixing, if not cultural fusion. Why not? Since a hat is just a hat, ultimately, why not wear a Cossack cap in January, a French beret in March, and a sombrero in May?
Yet most cultures around the world don’t see things this way, because they are indeed functional and monolithic cultures. The food you eat is licit on one day but illicit on another: to violate such subjective-seeming taboos is to desecrate a holy tradition. The culture that ends up contorting itself to accommodate less flexible neighbors, therefore, is precisely ours, which has already lost most of its identity (and has, besides, an enduring value of tolerance). Multiculturalism is at last about the extermination of what traces of distinct culture remain in the West. Our traditional regard for the nuclear family, our traditional belief that a person should sink or swim on the basis of his willingness to strive, our traditional founding of compassion for the marginalized upon a metaphysical brotherhood in one loving God… all of these are contemptuously swatted aside in multicultural confrontations to make room for the exotic and the arcane.
Not will the West be the only victim when the dust settles: only a fool could fail to see that sacrificing goats and refusing to allow married women out of the house will also quickly be dissolved in the acid of urban high-tech capitalism once the more concentrated cultures of Africa and Asia are themselves subjected to the globalist mainstream. Perhaps, you say, that wouldn’t be such a bad thing–and I would agree with you; but our position would be based in a residual faith in Western values, which would certainly not be tolerable in a true multiculturalist. This last–and there are many, many representatives of the type from college down to grade school, I’m afraid, despite my opening assertion that public employees are not all idiots–will eventually destroy all culture of any variety. We will be left only with the rules and regulations of a centralized government, whose elite arbiters will send down commandments to us like the New God whose fingers they suppose themselves to be.
Message to all home-schoolers: please keep fighting the good fight for a humane culture foregrounding individual conscience. You may be our last hope as a great ant farm is being constructed all around us. ~ Public Servant 453