Tuesday, May 16, 2006


California and Texas are the two largest markets for school textbooks, so whatever their laws are regarding content will determine the policy for the whole nation. Textbook publishers are not going to tailor texts for every state and district. The economy of scale is what drives their thinking, and they are not wrong in this.

I cannot say what the legislature of Texas requires. I look with favor upon Texas and the South in general. The grave crime of slavery was expiated by the blood of the Civil War, and the sin of racism has largely been cleansed from the polity - what remains is the hard moral core of true and traditional American values. I have said, and sincerely, thank God for the South. It's most of what remains of America. But of course I speak from impressions - I have not lived in a Southern state. I could be wrong.

But I am most assuredly not wrong about California. I was born in southern California, and have spent a large part of my life in the county of Los Angeles. We have one of the most reprehensible state legislatures in the nation. California used to be a Republican state, and still elects Republican governors, but the Assembly is a cabal of the most radical anti- everything- commonsensical hacks you could wish on your enemy. Some number of these morons supported the boycott by the illegals, a few weeks back - enough to approve a motion of support. So, uh, "our" "representatives" "thought" an attempt to damage the economy would be a good thing. I won't call them bitches, but they are.

This socialistic radicalization came about when the hardcore Dems, and Republicans, realized that it was they who controlled the primary system that selects candidates. The party faithful are generally the only ones who turn out for such elections, and they pick the most extreme candidates, not the moderates. So if a Dem wins, it will be a wingnut Dem. The Dems win. And their seats are safe, because they've gerrymandered their districts to assure their incumbency.

Special interests have not so much a symbiotic relationship with pols, as a mutually parasitic one. They're all pigs, feeding out of the same trough, just from different sides. A sort of Mad Tea Party, where they are eternally eating each other's leftovers. So atheists and conservative Christians, Arabs and Jews, Blacks and Browns, Armenians and Poles - whoever - get in the bread line and start mewling for their hushpuppies. To mix several metaphors. We can't complain about this. It is inevitable.

Since 1976, state law has required that school texts provide "positive" portrayals of specified groups. Blacks and women and Indians and women and blacks and blacks and women ... well, I'm forgetting who all. The usual suspects. Insofar as there is a need for such sensitive portrayals, this is not inappropriate. Women and blacks and all them other folks that we didn't hear much about, should have been heard about. Insofar as they did important things.

Even a "positive" requirement, rather than a merely truthful one, was not necessarily inappropriate. Even the decree that learning materials must promote a "sense of pride" in ethnic heritages is not entirely odious. There is something really sad in the story of little kids on the reservation watching a cowboy movie and cheering for the cavalry rather than the braves. It shouldn't be about identity politics, but we do, all of us, want the people who look like us, who are from where we're from, to be the good guys, at least some of the time. Role models really do matter.

That texts must not include any "adverse reflection" on any group might be defended, to some degree. Not rigorously defended - not validly defended - but defended, the way even a guilty criminal ought to be defended in a courtroom. So some months ago a Hindu group protested to the State Board of Education, demanding that the texts be changed from saying women in ancient India had fewer rights, to saying they had different rights. Gods. But they are not wrong, to defend their culture. It's called loyalty. Not loyalty to objectivity, but, nevertheless, loyalty.

Makes you wonder why Hollywood always wants to make America the bad guy.

The California Legislature has required that for history texts, in comparison to men "equal portrayal" of women "must be applied in every instance." Word for word, paragraph by paragraph, as much ink must be used describing the actions and effects of women, as of men. If dealing with only the past few decades, this would have little distorting effect. But prior to that, the policy is simply insane. Presidents' wives were important to the man, but not, simply not, important to the nation, compared to the man. Duh. On this day Abraham Lincoln signed the Emancipation Proclamation. Meanwhile, Mary Lincoln bought some antique moiré and hid the bill. (That's not a good example, because Abe got nine words, while Mary got eleven. We'll make up for it when we talk about Rutherford B. Hayes.)

And now we have SB1437, the state law mandating that gays and lesbians - and presumably bisexuals and transgenders and celibates and polymorphs and crossdressers and maiesiophiliacs and shoe fetishists and necrophiliacs and urolagnials and boiz who are into daddies & chubs - be dealt with in an equally even-handed and fair-minded manner. So our second graders have that to look forward to. Mommy, what's a strap-on?

History is a messy, and an ugly, discipline, however. It isn't about feeling good. It's about being warned. How they're teaching about Hitler, nowadays, I just haven't bothered to check. I hope they are sufficiently positive. Our young Aryans mustn't suffer any emotional turmoil, after all. But the cognitive dissonance they - all of them - will suffer when they finally and inevitably learn their education has been a vast uncontrolled experiment in social engineering - well, the fall will be catastrophic.

Reality matters. Fact: criminals in prison have a higher self-esteem than college students. Fact: the academically lowest-performing ethnic group has the highest self-esteem. Fact: the highest-performing ethnic group has the lowest self-esteem. Fact: history is full of important scummy people. This is a fact that our children need to be taught. Reality cannot be amended by a legislature. This is what Orwell so famously wrote about. Realty matters.


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