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This week in New World Notes, radio program #78, August 25:
Schoolchildren salute the flag: early 20th century. Be afraid.
One of my favorite mental images comes from Eric Klinenberg's talk on Media Oligopoly, from the 9th installment of New World Notes (April 2008). Klinenberg told how a Christian anti-smut organization and Move On (I think it was) and the National Rifle Association and Code Pink for Peace all joined together to fight some horrific rule-change or other that the Bush-era Federal Communications Commission was proposing.
Can’t you just picture the table? . . . with (the late) Charleton Heston, for the NRA, in leather boots, jeans, and cowboy-plaid shirt, sitting next to Code Pink’s Medea Benjamin, in a pink Tee and (just to unsettle her right-wing opponents) pearl necklace?
I can picture Medea and Charlton--between rounds of plotting tactics to stop the government from “privatizing” all the airwaves--chatting and discovering they’re both fans of, say, singer Iris Dement and the Green Bay Packers. And, more importantly, discovering that they share more political beliefs than they had imagined. And discovering that they and the organizations they represent can work together effectively on matters of common concern.
Every bit as much as those we refer to as “right-wing crazies” do, we left-of-center types demonize those we see as our opponents and then turn them into cartoon stereotypes. Not even real demons but cartoon demons!
We disdain Limbaugh "dittoheads" who--cartoonishly--imagine Palestinians as only evil bomb-throwers, . . . who imagine homosexuals as warped pedophiles, . . . who imagine Obama and H. Clinton as “dangerous socialists.” (If only!)
Yet how about our own imaginations of people it’s PC for liberals to despise? What do we picture when we think of “hard-hat construction worker“? What do we picture when we think of “NRA member”?
So I like the image of Medea and Charlton getting to know and respect each other--and the grassroots organization that the other heads or headed. Some day I’m going to do a show on gun-control and the NRA that--in the unlikely event that all goes according to plan--will get listeners to question which side has the sane, sensible people and which has the wild-eyed crazies.
For now, though, let’s look at an even stranger set of bedfellows than Chuck and Medea. Teachers / scholars of education / educational theorists John Taylor Gatto and Jonathan Kozol are (apart from their life’s work!) two peas from very different pods.
Kozol is a child of privilege with a resume’ to prove it: prep school; Harvard BA summa cum laude (English major, let it be noted); Rhodes Scholarship to one of the most prestigious colleges at Oxford, Magdalen; quit to move to Paris and write a novel; numerous fellowships including two Guggenheims; and so on and so forth.
Gatto was brought up in a steel-and-mining town near Pittsburgh, educated (or “schooled,” as he would say) in small-town public schools in the region and one Catholic boarding school, served in the army, attended graduate schools, and eventually became a schoolteacher in New York City.
Class conflict, anyone?
Interboro High School Brain Trust, ca. 1968. Note handsome young
man in the polka-dot tie. "Scott's Hi-Q" was an interscholastic quiz-team
tournament similar to GE College Bowl on national TV. ("Scott" was the
Scott Paper Company.) Standing: Bruce Shaw (team alternate), Kenneth
Mobley (faculty advisor). This photo surfaced just a few days ago on
That Gatto and Kozol disagree on several points is hardly surprising. More surprising is how much they agree on. Here’s a quick comparison-and-contrast:
Born in . . .
Grew up in . . .
Gatto: blue-collar small town near Pittsburgh (Monongahela, PA)
Kozol: "previleged" environment in affluent Boston suburb (Newton, MA)
Apparent political leanings:
Gatto: ("paleo-") conservative / Libertarian
Most teaching experience:
Gatto: public secondary schools
Kozol: public elementary schools
Honors from educational Establishment?
Public persona (after Gatto):
Kozol: child-like (= praise, of a sort) but not child-ish
Purpose of standardized testing = ?
Gatto: to sort & destroy children
Kozol: to sort & destroy children
Overall nature of his critique (after Parenti):
Gatto: a "radical analysis"
Kozol: a "liberal complaint"
Summary judgment of public schooling:
Gatto: all-too-successful at doing the evil things it was designed to do
Kozol: a failure at educating children & empowering citizens
Proposed solution to the problems of public education =
Gatto: destroy the system
Kozol: radically reform the system
It wouldn’t hurt if you had heard the previous installments of Gatto’s speech (NWN #72 & 74). If you want to, and have an hour to spare, by all means help yourself! Just scroll down to the blog entries for July 10 (#72) and July 26 (#74). Each entry has a link or 2 to the sound files. But I think you can also begin with this week’s episode, which starts with a review of Gatto’s main ideas.
We’ll hear more from Kozol at a later date.