The great library of Alexandria was ravaged by Christians in 391 CE, and completely destroyed by Muslims in 642 CE.
Now contemporary barbarians are following those precedents and giving the same vigorous treatment to the great public library of New York.
Books, you see, are things that preserve privilege. They make the people who read them feel superior to those who don’t. Reading is a selfish, snobbish, individual occupation. It snubs the community. It is anti-social, and – even worse – anti-socialist.
The news of this historic act of cultural sabotage is reported by Daniel Greenfield at Front Page:
The New York Public Library is drastically purging its book collections, eliminating a great number of older books in circulation and making books that remain in its collection much less accessible.
With the famous 42nd street library, it means the outright vandalism of one of the most famous libraries in the country whose books will be banished to New Jersey. At local branches, it means fewer books, more computers and more gimmicks.
It’s striking then to look at the front page of the New York Public Library [brochure], to note its absence of books and the proliferation of pop culture and politically correct events. The Beatles get extensive coverage. There are a dozen black history events including racism in the criminal justice system.
Then you’ve got AIDS activism complete with a gay kiss and a Muslim librarian.
Finally movie rentals and shopping for diamonds.
Books? The New York Public Library doesn’t seem to do those much anymore. But if you want a computer, a diamond or political correctness, you’ve come to the right place.
This is what the New York Public Library is becoming …
“Although they are often thought of as cultural institutions,” argued a 2013 report by the Center for an Urban Future, a left-leaning New York think tank, “the reality is that the public libraries are a key component of the city’s human capital system.” In this view, New York’s public libraries — and the branches in particular — exist to provide underprivileged groups with vital services, such as computer-literacy classes, job-search assistance, and “safe havens” for at-risk youths.
A homeless shelter, an immigrant literacy center and a place for teenagers to hang out. No books wanted. …
$300 million [will be spent] on a restructuring of the 42nd Street building which includes a huge expansion of public space, the removal of stacks (and the 3 million books in them), and the creation of a circulating library in the building.
NYPL will lose its standing as a premier research institution (second only to the Library of Congress in the US) – a destination for international as well as American scholars – and become a busy social center where focused research is no longer the primary goal.
One of the claims made about the CLP is that it will “democratize” the NYPL, but that seems to be a misunderstanding of what that word means. The NYPL is already among the most democratic institutions of its kind. Anyone can use it; no credentials are needed to gain entry.
Meanwhile you can walk into any branch and borrow a laptop because apparently that is what the library is supposed to do now.
Gormless “Progressives” taking another great leap forward.
If proof were needed that the Left is against civilization, this report provides it.
On the political left, fair is foul and foul is fair.
The left likes to use words to mean their opposites. Communist dictatorships like to call themselves “democratic” republics. It’s a cynical tease, because it shows that they know democracy is better than dictatorship.
A cynical lefty euphemism much in use in America is “diversity”. It should mean “variety”, but what it has come to mean in practice is its opposite - “orthodoxy”: a strict doctrinal uniformity of opinion.
The doctrine has achieved enormous success in the universities, which are no longer open to new ideas, no longer allow free debate, no longer question fixed assumptions. That’s what they once existed for. Now they are temples of political correctness, safes for the secure locking up of leftist doctrine.They want a sterile mix of ethnicities and of as many genders as semantic ingenuity can invent, but not a fertile mix of ideas. They recognize only one set of ideas as correct. To question it is heresy.
Steps towards enforcing this kind of “diversity” in the news media have been proposed by the Obama administration. Charles Krauthammer deplores the move in this video clip:
Here the doctrine of diversity is examined by Victor Davis Hanson:
Diversity has become corporatized on American campuses, with scores of bureaucrats and administrators accentuating different pedigrees and ancestries. That’s odd, because diversity does not mean any more “variety” or “points of difference,” at least as it used to be defined.
Instead, diversity has become … synonymous with orthodoxy and intolerance, especially of political thought.
When campuses sloganeer “celebrate diversity,” that does not mean encouraging all sorts of political views. …
Do colleges routinely invite graduation speakers who are skeptical of man-made global warming, and have reservations about present abortion laws, gay marriage or illegal immigration – if only for the sake of ensuring diverse views?
Nor does diversity mean consistently ensuring that institutions should reflect “what America looks like.” …
Do we really want all institutions to weigh diversity rather than merit so that coveted spots reflect the race and gender percentages of American society? …
Gender disparity is absolutely stunning on American campuses. Women now earn about 61 percent of all associate degrees and 57 percent of all bachelor’s degrees. With such disproportionate gender representation, do we need outreach offices on campus to weigh maleness in admissions? Should college presidents investigate whether the campus has become an insidiously hostile place for men? …
If ethnic, rather than class, pedigrees provide an edge, how do we ascertain them in today’s melting-pot culture? Does the one-quarter Latino student, the recent arrival from Jamaica or the fourth-generation Japanese-American deserve special consideration as “diverse”? And if so, over whom? The Punjabi-American? The Arab-American? The gay rich kid? The coal miner’s daughter? Or the generic American who chooses not to broadcast his profile?
Does Diversity Inc. rely on genetic testing, family documents, general appearance, accented names, trilled pronunciation or just personal assurance to pass judgment on who should be advantaged in any measurement of diversity?
In such an illiberal, tribally obsessed and ideologically based value system, it is not hard to see why and how careerists such as Sen. Elizabeth Warren and activist Ward Churchill were able to fabricate helpful Native American ancestries.
Diversity came into vogue after affirmative action became unworkable in the 1980s. Given the multiplicity of ethnicities, huge influxes of new immigrants and a growing rate of intermarriage, it became almost impossible to adjudicate historical grievances and dole out legal remedies. So just creating “diversity” – without much worry over how to define it – avoided the contradictions.
But diversity is not only incoherent; it is also ironic. On a campus short of resources, the industry of diversity and related “studies” classes that focus on gender or racial differences and grievances crowd out exactly the sort of disciplines that provide the skills – mastery of languages, literature, science, engineering, business and math – that best prep non-traditional graduates for a shot at well-compensated careers.
And here Jonah Goldberg writes on the same subject:
Cancel the philosophy courses, people. Oh, and we’re going to be shuttering the political science, religion and pre-law departments too. We’ll keep some of the English and history folks on for a while longer, but they should probably keep their resumes handy.
Because, you see, they are of no use anymore. We have the answers to the big questions, so why keep pretending there’s anything left to discuss?
At least that’s where Erin Ching, a student at Swarthmore College, seems to be coming down. Her school invited a famous [or infamous - ed] left-wing Princeton professor, Cornel West, and a famous right-wing Princeton professor, Robert George, to have a debate. The two men are friends, and by all accounts they had an utterly civil exchange of ideas. But that only made the whole thing even more outrageous.
“What really bothered me is, the whole idea is that at a liberal arts college, we need to be hearing a diversity of opinion,” Ching told the Daily Gazette, the school’s newspaper. “I don’t think we should be tolerating [George's] conservative views because that dominant culture embeds these deep inequalities in our society.”
Swarthmore must be so proud.
Over at Harvard, another young lady has similar views. Harvard Crimson editorial writer Sandra Y.L. Korn recently called for getting rid of academic freedom in favor of something called “academic justice”.
“If our university community opposes racism, sexism and heterosexism, why should we put up with research that counters our goals simply in the name of ‘academic freedom’?” Korn asks.
Helpfully, she answers her own question: “When an academic community observes research promoting or justifying oppression, it should ensure that this research does not continue.”
One could easily dismiss these students as part of that long and glorious American tradition of smart young people saying stupid things. As Oscar Wilde remarked, “In America the young are always ready to give to those who are older than themselves the full benefits of their inexperience.”
But we all know that this nonsense didn’t spring ex nihilo from their imaginations … These ideas are taught.
Indeed, we are now up to our knees in this Orwellian bilge. Diversity means conformity. …
To want “diversity” – the writer sums up – means to listen only to “people who agree with me” and that means people who are left wing.
[For] the sages of Swarthmore and Harvard … if the conversation heads in a direction where [they] smell “oppression” – as defined solely by the left – then it must not be “put up with”.
Diversity demands that diversity of opinion not be tolerated anymore.
As a follow-up to yesterday’s post, here’s Walter Williams on education fraud, from Front Page:
Philadelphia’s public school system has joined several other big-city school systems, such as those in Atlanta, Detroit and Washington, D.C., in widespread teacher-led cheating on standardized academic achievement tests.
So far, the city has fired three school principals, and The Wall Street Journal reports, “Nearly 140 teachers and administrators in Philadelphia public schools have been implicated in one of the nation’s largest cheating scandals.”
Investigators found that teachers got together after tests to erase the students’ incorrect answers and replace them with correct answers.
In some cases, they went as far as to give or show students answers during the test. …
While there’s widespread teacher test cheating to conceal education failure, most notably among black children, it’s just the tip of the iceberg.
The National Assessment of Educational Progress, published by the U.S. Department of Education’s National Center for Education Statistics and sometimes referred to as the Nation’s Report Card, measures student performance in the fourth and eighth grades. In 2013, 46 percent of Philadelphia eighth-graders scored below basic, and 35 percent scored basic. Below basic is a score meaning that a student is unable to demonstrate even partial mastery of knowledge and skills fundamental for proficient work at his grade level.
Basic indicates only partial mastery. It’s a similar story in reading, with 42 percent below basic and 41 percent basic. With this kind of performance, no one should be surprised that of the state of Pennsylvania’s 27 most poorly performing schools on the SAT, 25 are in Philadelphia.
Philadelphia’s four-year high-school graduation rate in 2012 was 64 percent, well below the national rate of 78 percent. Even if a student graduates from high school, what does it mean?
What a high-school diploma means for white students is nothing to write home about, as suggested by the fact that every year, nearly 60 percent of first-year college students must take remedial courses in English or mathematics.
What a high-school diploma means for black students is nothing less than a disaster … When a student is given a high-school diploma, that attests that he can read, write and compute at a 12th-grade level, and when he can’t do so at the eighth-grade level, that diploma is fraudulent. What makes it so tragic is that neither the student nor his parents are aware that he has a fraudulent diploma. When a black person is not admitted to college, flunks out of college, can’t pass a civil service test or doesn’t get job promotions, he is likelier to blame racial discrimination than his poor education.
Politicians, civil rights organizations and the education establishment will do nothing about the fraud. In fact, they give their full allegiance to the perpetrators.
We quote from Fred Reed’s blog Fred On Everything. The parts we’ve chosen give the substance and flavor of the article, in which we find much bitter truth.
Ah, the guttering candle of civilization! How I love it. The dwindling flames warm the cockles of a curmudgeon’s heart (whatever precisely a cockle may be): the galloping rot, the stampede to enstupidation, the gathering night of the Fifth Century.
We approve of him choosing the Fifth Century – when Christianity took over Europe from the Roman Empire – as the time when the darkness descended.
For a while I lost confidence in democracy, which was producing a depressingly literate and responsible public. A curmudgeon does not like to see prosperity and content growing from intelligent policy. It offends his sense of rightness. Now, thank Hera, the country rushes toward its appointed endpoint in the abyss. …
Why Hera, queen of the gods? Probably because of her special portfolio of Women & Marriage. Women come into the discussion later.
This, from UCLA, a daycare center in California which was formerly a university:
Racial tensions are inflamed at the University of California at Los Angeles following several incidents — most notably, one where a professor corrected the grammar, punctuation and capitalization in minority students’ assignments. The act of correcting a black student was “micro-aggression,” according to the members of the student group Call 2 Action: Graduate Students of Color, which launched a sit-in during a subsequent meeting of the class.
Wonderful! This is heady stuff. [According to this group] graduate students “of color” … can’t be expected to distinguish “its” from “it’s.” Fourth-grade English is just too hard for them, and they must be sheltered from the burden. Apparently they attend university to avoid being expected to learn anything.
This is balm to a curmudgeon’s cockles. You see, we of our ashen-souled and lonely trade, laboring in the shadows … feast … on thorough-going damned foolishness, on lunacy, on luminous hypocrisy and suicidal moral preening. These are good times for us. We gorge.
Back to UCLA. Protecting minorities … from the travails of learning would seem more racist than requiring it of them, but never mind. Keep’em dumb, keep’em mad. … Onward into the gloaming. Let the show go on. …
Someone famously said that democracy lasts until the unworthy learn that they can vote themselves the treasury. Yes. More generally, until they learn that they can vote themselves everything. Here is the backbone of American domestic policy, if that is the right word for floundering narcissism. The inadequate and barely lettered, by weight of numbers, can simply declare themselves the equals of their betters (or should I say “there betters”?). They don’t have to accomplish anything. They simply assert that they have done it, or that doing it is elitist and therefore reprehensible. I have in mind things like reading, scoring at the level of sentience on the SAT, or lifting mortar rounds.
The reduction of American universities to the academic level of the comic book … was of course preceded and made necessary by the mob’s desire for the trappings of education. The substance they find merely annoying. They have the votes, though, and pay the tuition. Thus they get what they want, a diploma, without having to subject their tiny minds to the oppressions of thought.
Their minds might not be tiny. Or they could be expanded. They need a decent education. But Fred doubts that all of them are educable. He despairs of many of them.
This unionism of the shiftless shapes society at all levels. Thus No Child Left Behind when clearly many children can’t possibly get ahead. Thus the drive to have all students in high school “college-ready” when a screaming maximum of twenty percent are smart enough for what used to be college work. Thus the feral grunting of rap.
But here is another jewel of degradation gleaming in the wan light of witlessness: A school (should I say “school”?) in Brooklyn, two-thirds of whose students are black or Hispanic, has abolished its … advanced courses for the intelligent. …
This is a faster road to universal inadequacy than imposing quotas.
Gutting courses for the intelligent also means that bright students of culler don’t got access to the advanced schooling that would let them rise in the world, know what I’m sayin’? …
We see the same principle of inadequacy voting itself the cookie jar in … everything. The Marines have opened the infantry to women. This is ridiculous, which is why I like the idea. Curmudgeons love the ridiculous, and find the results to vary between amusing and hilarious.
It is obvious that women are not physically up to ground combat, that they get pregnant more often than men, that training has to be enfeebled to maintain the pretense. But there are lots of them, and they vote. …
As a curmudgeon, I applaud the step toward equality. As a former Marine, I am fascinated that General James Amos, Commandant of the Marine Corps, signed off on it. He knows better. … But it’s democracy, see, and there are more women than Marines. … Let the ever-lovin’ show go on.
(Hat tip Frank.)
The attorney-general Eric Holder infamously refused to prosecute Black Panther intimidators at a polling place in 2008, and became irritated when questioned about his leniency. Defending them, he called them “my people”.
“His people” – by which he means black people – must not, it seems, be held as responsible for breaking the rules as other people.
That a US attorney-general should favor discrimination under the law, and practice it, is outrageous.
There was too little outrage, apparently, over the Black Panther incident to make him reconsider. Now he wants black children to be treated differently from others when they break the rules or behave intolerably at school.
This is from National Review, by Roger Clegg:
The Education and Justice Departments of the Obama administration today issued extensive joint guidance to K–12 schools on student discipline and, in particular, on how the administration will determine if school-discipline policies are discriminatory on the basis of race or ethnicity. …
On the grounds of needing to make sure that punishment is not meted out unfairly, the DOJ is asking for punishment to be meted out unfairly.
Predictably, the administration promises to be extremely aggressive in using the “disparate impact” approach to its civil-rights enforcement — that is, in ensuring that school-discipline policies that have disproportionate results across races are severely scrutinized.
It’s a fair question whether the federal government in 2014 needs to be micromanaging schools to ensure there is no actual discrimination, but certainly it’s a bad thing that the administration is going to be insisting on racial proportionality. …
Which is to say, even if black students misbehave more than others, they should not be punished more than others.
The idea is absurd, preposterous, STUPID.
The fact of the matter is that not all racial and ethnic groups (not to mention boys versus girls) are equally likely to be discipline problems. There are a variety of reasons for this, but I will just note here what is probably the main one. There are huge differences among groups in out-of-wedlock birthrates — more than seven out of ten African Americans, six out of ten Native Americans, and five out of ten Hispanics, versus fewer than three out of ten non-Hispanic whites and two out of ten Asian Americans are born to unmarried women — and children growing up in homes without fathers are much more likely to get into all kinds of trouble, including at school.
If schools are pressured to “get their numbers” right in this area, they will either start disciplining students who shouldn’t be or, more likely, will not discipline some students who ought to be.
We anticipate that both those measures will be taken.
If unruly students are not disciplined, the kids who will lose out the most will be well-behaved students in classes with undisciplined classmates, and those well-behaved students are themselves likely to be poor black or Latino kids. Somehow the Left always forgets about them in its eagerness to show compassion. …
It is true that there are difficult issues in the school-discipline area … But it profits nothing to view these problems through a racial lens.
Now look and listen for outrage, for protest, for reminders that the worst form of racism is discrimination under the law. It may be a long vigil.
This is a fictitious story, circulating on the net. No such professor – unfortunately – exists. No such brilliant strategy for teaching the danger and absurdity of socialism was put into execution (as far as we know).
But it’s an excellent cautionary tale.
An economics professor at a local college made a statement that he had never failed a single student before, but had recently failed an entire class. That class had insisted that socialism worked and that no one would be poor and no one would be rich, a great equalizer.
The professor then said, “OK, we will have an experiment in this class on socialism”.. All grades will be averaged and everyone will receive the same grade so no one will fail and no one will receive an A …. (substituting grades for dollars – something closer to home and more readily understood by all).
After the first test, the grades were averaged and everyone got a B. The students who studied hard were upset and the students who studied little were happy. As the second test rolled around, the students who studied little had studied even less and the ones who studied hard decided they wanted a free ride too so they studied little.
The second test average was a ‘D’. No one was happy.
When the 3rd test rolled around, the average was an F.
As the tests proceeded, the scores never increased as bickering, blame and name-calling all resulted in hard feelings and no one would study for the benefit of anyone else.
To their great surprise, ALL FAILED and the professor told them that “socialism” would also ultimately fail because when the reward is great, the effort to succeed is great, but when government takes all the reward away, no one will try or want to succeed.
Could not be any simpler than that.
The professor chalked up these 5 sentences on his blackboard to drive the lesson home:
1. You cannot legislate the poor into prosperity by legislating the wealthy out of prosperity.
2. What one person receives without working for, another person must work for without receiving.
3. The government cannot give to anybody anything that the government does not first take from somebody else.
4. You cannot multiply wealth by dividing it.
5. When half of the people get the idea that they do not have to work because the other half is going to take care of them, and when the other half gets the idea that it does no good to work because somebody else is going to get what they work for, that is the beginning of the end of any nation.
This video of Friedrich Hayek talking to students gets to be most interesting – we think – round about the 16 minute mark, when he explains why the monopoly power of government to issue money should be taken away from it. He goes on to argue against the idea of “social justice”. Justice applies to individuals, not “a state of affairs”. Most interesting of all, perhaps, is the case he makes against the idea that individuals who “do good” directly to other individuals are the great benefactors of society. On the contrary, the “selfish” people who produce goods for profit do far more good to far more people, indirectly. Towards the end he makes the point that the more complex a society is, the less able government is to understand its needs and plan for them.
A young idealist has a formula for ending poverty and achieving economic equality: 100% inheritance tax and redistribution of wealth by government. He thinks – as the Left does – that there is a fixed quantity of wealth in the world – “the capital” he calls it . (Why can’t or won’t the Left understand that wealth is created?)
Milton Friedman explains how the formula would destroy a society.
And here he talks – inter alia – about the importance of limiting government power to preserve the freedom of the individual.
Obama’s Education Secretary recently said that opponents to the Administration’s “Common Core” Standards are merely “white suburban moms” who are, all of a sudden, learning that their kids aren’t real bright. Arne Duncan (wow. . . Perfect name for a 1970’s sitcom) made the degrading remarks to a group of state school superintendents on Friday. According to the Washington Post:
U.S. Education Secretary Arne Duncan told a group of state schools superintendents Friday that he found it “fascinating” that some of the opposition to the Common Core State Standards has come from “white suburban moms who — all of a sudden — their child isn’t as brilliant as they thought they were, and their school isn’t quite as good as they thought it was.”
First of all, Arne, what does race have to do with anything? For that matter what does the socio-economic status of parents have to do with anything? (How would such a comment have been received if it was regarding single black mothers with less-than-brilliant kids?) Arne’s complete dismissal of opponents to the Federal Government’s takeover of education is typical of the Washington Statists who have been running things for the last several years. It’s as if he meant to say, “Opponents can’t be taken seriously. . . After all, they don’t agree with me.”
The insinuation that parents are raising concerns over the federal education standards because they would rather their kids have their ego’s artificially inflated, is both insulting and indicative of his overwhelming sense of self-righteousness. Perhaps we should just be happy Arne didn’t employee the typical MSNBC argument that his opponents are merely redneck-racists who despise the color of our President’s skin.
Forgetting for a minute about the horror stories regarding Common-Core-approved teaching material (promoting communism and downplaying wrong answers as two examples) there are still plenty of reasons to harbor sincere reservations about the federal intrusion on local education efforts.
At heart of Common Core is the liberal’s statist notion that only they are capable of running our lives.Arne, and his central-planning buddies in the nation’s Capital, think parents, school boards, and classroom teachers are incapable of providing children with adequate education standards. …
According to people like Arne Duncan, only the folks who brought us healthcare.gov can bring some degree of competency into our American education system. (Stop laughing. That really is what he’s suggesting.) In the real world, however, the Federal government’s incompetence has managed to raise red flags among a bipartisan swath of the American public – including the Administration’s staunchest allies. That official “white suburban mom” activist group, known as the American Federation of Teachers, even raised an eyebrow at the failure of Common Core implementation. Randi Weingarten, the head of this radical tea-party group (sarcasm) even said that if you thought Obamacare’s implementation was bad, then just wait, “the implementation of the Common Core is far worse.”
That may be an exaggeration, but we’re glad he said it.
The primary objection to more federal government involvement in education has been a usurpation of local school board decisions, and a politically driven curriculum for education. Which only makes sense given the political nature of everything that comes out of DC. Isn’t it amazing how we are all told that DC is run by lobbyists and special interests? But then we are expected to hand over something as valuable and precious as our child’s education to those very narrow minded con-artists?
The standards themselves were the first casualty of DC politicization. They were not, despite what Duncan would like you to believe, written by teachers, school boards, or even elected representatives. They were not approved or written by the states that adopted them, or by the education professionals who will be implementing them. . . They were written (I know this will be shocking) by bureaucrats.
But let’s not let these little concerns get in the way of calling Common Core opponents “white moms” with dumb kids. Such insults are nothing new to Duncan. According to the Washington Post, he told a convention of newspaper editors in June that Common Core critics were “misinformed at best and laboring under paranoid delusions at worst.”
Well. . . It’s easy to start wearing tin-foil hats when Florida schools begin scanning student’s retinas and kids are being taught that private enterprise is unfair and discriminatory.
Then again, maybe Arne is speaking from personal experience. . . His mother, after all, might be a white suburban mom who believes her son is much brighter than he actually is.
There is a red wall in the schools and academies of America which needs to be torn down.
This is from Townhall, by Terrence Moore:
The ninth of November marked the twenty-fourth anniversary of the fall of the Berlin Wall, probably the most important historical event since World War II and the most important lesson about human freedom experienced within the living memory of most of us. …
How is this lesson being taught in the nation’s classrooms? For while those of us in our forties and older remember the fall of communism and its causes, today’s teenagers are wholly in the dark. What, then, are the high-school students of today being taught about what exactly — what principles, what forces, which people — brought down the Wall?
It is actually fairly easy to answer this question since forty-five states are now controlled by the testing and curricular regime known as the Common Core. … If we just take a quick glance at Appendix B of the Common Core English Standards, which recommends “exemplar texts” for reading, we find the addresses of a host of worthy historical figures: Patrick Henry, George Washington, Abraham Lincoln, Franklin Roosevelt, Martin Luther King, and, yes, Ronald Reagan. What a model of non-partisan selection!
But it would behoove us to look at which speech of Reagan is being recommended: “Address to Students at Moscow State University.” Now that is rather odd. Would that speech be the first that comes to mind when we consider “the best of Reagan”? Was that address the most historically significant? Why not the First Inaugural or his acceptance speech at the 1980 Convention or his important addresses on foreign policy or even his 1964 “A Time for Choosing” on behalf of Barry Goldwater that launched him to political prominence? Might this be a case of the architects of the Common Core wanting to look non-partisan by having Reagan’s name on the list while actually trying to take away the force of his message to America? We can solve the mystery by finding out what will take place in classes across the land …
On pages 403-4 of Pearson/Prentice Hall’s LITERATURE, Grade Ten, Common Core Edition, we see an editorial written on the tenth anniversary of the fall of the Berlin Wall. It appeared in The New York Times. It begins, “The Berlin Wall was bound to fall eventually”. … [It] continues:
But that it came down as bloodlessly as it did 10 years ago this week is largely a tribute to one leader. Today Mikhail Gorbachev is a political pariah in Russia and increasingly forgotten in the West. But history will remember him generously for his crucial role in ending the cold war and pulling back the Iron Curtain that Stalin drew across Europe in 1945.
So there you have it. Gorbachev brought down the Wall. Why? Well, evidently because he was a good guy. In one line of the editorial we are treated to a masterful use of elliptical prose: “As political pressures began to build in the late 1980s, Mr. Gorbachev was left with two options.” Etc. What political pressures? Who or what brought those pressures? We are not told. The New York Times editors assign the words “enlightened,” “idealism,” and “pragmatic” to Gorbachev. Indeed, the General Secretary of the Communist Party is said to have had “a wisdom and decency that is sadly rare in international power politics”. Does that comment extend to American participants in international power politics, particularly at that time?
Those of us who lived through those years and kept up with events might wonder what role, if any, Ronald Reagan played in this drama, according to the textbook editors. Will the adjectives “enlightened,” “pragmatic,” “wise,” and “decent” be applied to him? His name is not to be found in any of the documents concerning the fall of the Berlin Wall. But on page 449, we do find, as promised in the Common Core, his Address to the Students of Moscow State University held up as a model “exemplar text”. Unfortunately, the address is so heavily highlighted with shades of green, blue, orange, gray, purple, and pink — and so buried under the jargon of two-bit literary criticism (central idea and point of view, methods of development, organizational structures, rhetorical devices, figurative language, tone and word choice) — that it is hardly readable. Worse still, in the textbook editors’ introduction to the speech, students are told the following:
Led by Mikhail Gorbachev, the Soviets were blazing through the greatest changes they had seen since the 1917 revolution. Although reforms were rapidly taking root, they were not far enough from communist ideology for Reagan. . . . In this excerpt, notice how Reagan restrains his strongly anti-communist sentiments while still extolling the ideals he represents.
The lesson? The enlightened, idealistic, wise, decent, and yet pragmatic Gorbachev had events well under control. The Soviets were “blazing through changes”; i.e. reform must have been their idea. But things were not moving fast enough for the strongly-anti-communist (i.e. stubborn, right-wing) Reagan. Nonetheless, we, the editors, have found a rare speech in which he actually moderated his tone. That’s Reagan at his best, insofar as he had a best.
What’s missing in this account? “General Secretary Gorbachev, if you seek peace, if you seek prosperity for the Soviet Union and Eastern Europe, if you seek liberalization: Come here to this gate! Mr. Gorbachev, open this gate! Mr. Gorbachev, tear down this wall!” Those are the words that brought down the Wall. But they are not to be found in the Common Core and therefore in the classrooms of America.
The architects of the Common Core plainly do not want the young people of America to read or to watch – for it is on the Web – that speech. The progressive bureaucrats who are now in control of the nation’s schools do not want the young people of America to know that the Cold War was won on principle, that courage and resolution on the part of Americans were essential to the ending of tyranny in the communist-controlled countries and the protecting of freedom in the rest of the world. They certainly do not want young Americans thinking that we were in the right and had to be prepared to use force against an evil empire. Above all, the arch-testers do not want today’s youth and tomorrow’s voters to know that in this contest for right and freedom a former actor named Ronald Reagan played the starring role.
He did – in partnership with Prime Minister Margaret Thatcher. All that Gorbachev can be credited with is that he saw – what by then was hard to miss – that the USSR could not survive. He tried to make adjustments so that it just might. It was impossible.
It had always been impossible for Communism to work. That is to say, it is not a system that can foster and protect prosperity, happiness, liberty, or even life. And when something can’t work, it doesn’t. The only surprising thing about the Soviet Union is that it creaked on in its hellish way for 70 years before it came to its grinding halt.
American children mis-educated by Common Core doctrine will not be told this. The compilers of Common Core text books seem still to have faith that Communism could work if only a few American generations could be brought up to believe that it could.
Leftists believe in the power of faith just as Christians do. But faith never has and never will overcome reality.