Ancient History Lessons for Homeschool Hegemonists

28 08 2007

Always unschooled (and always ashamed of homeschooler hegemony) Favorite Daughter started her honors sociology class this week, with yet another Ph.D. prof who interests and inspires her.

Go, community college as real education, no matter who is “paying” for it!

Their first class discussion was about the complex meaning of identity, thinking critically about how (and why) you define who you are as an individual within any society — or mob — relentlessly pressing individuals to conform with (often quite radical) norms.

Stubborn symbolic belief in “who we are” beyond all reason and science is all some folks have, the only story with any power to put them on top of a social group, and so they are willing to turn the sciences of larger society upside down, on the basis of that belief.


High school is a universal example, I guess, but my own high school memories are history, almost as old as modern homeschooling! So let me be more current. A social norming eddy of enforcement that I lived through since the turn of the most recent century, but still can’t quite believe is “real” rather than just Internet fantasyland, is the Young Earth Republican fundamentalist homeschool hegemony, whose persecution complex defines their own little “activist community” with special moral and legal status as a sub-sub-society apart from the rest of us homeschooling heathens (on the strength of a self-proclaimed “history” of oh, 50 years or so??)

They so tightly clutch their own historic roles as the faithful and steadfast, the chosen leaders of their cult– whoops, I mean advocacy group — that maybe it shuts off the circulation of blood to their brain cells. They obsess over a fantastical identity so derailing to their train of thought, that it causes them to misread real history, science, humanities, economics and politics, constitutions, dictionaries, and the hearts of parents and children across the land. Their own holy writ and society’s best interests, too.

But that insulated little society of identity politics claiming to be grassroots activism based on “facts” and “research” is old news today. We have a new example to contemplate today, in news both newer and much, much older. Back to Favorite Daughter and real education:

Besides the sociology course, her chosen academic slate this semester also includes honors history, humanities and psychology. So “all things considered” — that’s an NPR pun — you couldn’t hope for a better story on the car radio driving to class this morning than this . . .

Ethnicity of King Tut Debated

Morning Edition, August 28, 2007 · The King Tut exhibition has drawn millions of visitors to museums across the country since it opened two years ago. But some African-American scholars believe the exhibition makes King Tut look too white. The debate over Tut’s race led the Franklin Institute Science Museum in Philadelphia, where the show is on display, to sponsor a conference on the subject.

It was science, not belief, that created this museum interpretation of the ancient king.

Hawass said three separate teams of researchers reviewing the data from the mummified corpse had concluded that Tutankhamun was a Caucasoid North African.

It is belief, not science, that objects. Science seems to be clear on the difference between belief and science. Belief — not so much.

The fatal flaw of Belief that promotes itself as Science (law, history, economics, education) is that in so doing, it blurs the very boundaries hegemonists insist are so immutable, that must be respected and enforced for human society to survive. If they were thinking clearly in the first place, surely they would see this for themselves, and therefore be unable to press their emotion-laden case as any form of honest intellectual inquiry?

We rant when hegemonists misdefine the science of natural selection with belief in biblical creation stories. I think these examples reflect exactly the same substitution of belief for reality. It insults educated intelligence to call it “clarity” as some homeschool creation-museum types insist.

I see no more clarity (much less reality) in defining King Tut as “jet-black” by misconstruing cultural symbolism in ancient Egypt than in defining “homeschool” by stubbornly misconstruing learning and education in America today, and I see no social, legal or educational value in either one. It’s all based on hardheaded, hardball political hegemony — not reason, science, history, understanding, not even fact. It is de-volution of the human mind to purposely confuse belief and identity symbols with science and education.

And when we do it anyway, the evidence suggests it quite logically makes “us” — whoever we tell ourselves we are in our little sub-societies — look pretty stupid.

Which brings my power of story for the day full circle back to NPR. Check this out:

“Passing for Egyptian”
All Things Considered, May 15, 2003 · When commentator Murad Kalam traveled to Egypt, he realized that, if he kept his mouth shut, he could pass for Egyptian. For the first time in his life, he felt ordinary. He could hail a cab at any hour, something he could not do in Boston or New York. But he was not “passing” in the American sense — a light-skinned black person passing for white. And even though he was passing, he knew that he was not truly Egyptian.

Favorite Daughter should get the last word and so she shall, about Barack Obama’s blurry but real identity, and history and society and how we keep rewriting it to suit us:

Somebody said that Barack Obama is a Muslim.

. . .“Oh, he totally is,” the conservative chooses this moment to jump in. “And I’d hate to see the day one of them gets elected to the highest office in our country.”

As we all sit there in a mild state of shock, wondering if she really just said what we just heard her say, she barrels on.

“You know, they all want to kill us. It says in their Koran that they have to kill the infidels.”

“No, it does not.” Kikki says definitively. “But – ” the conservative tries to say, but Kikki doesn’t let her get it out. “It does not. That is a load of crap.”

“No, you haven’t seen it,” the conservative says breathlessly. She doesn’t really know that Kikki hasn’t read the Koran, and I wouldn’t put it past her, but the leap in logic doesn’t appear to bother the conservative. “I have seen the section where it says that. They showed it to us in class.”

Time out from the story for a few paragraphs: There’s this movie called “Gentleman’s Agreement” from the just-barely-post-WWII-era. In it, Gregory Peck, a maverick reporter, pretends to be Jewish to uncover anti-Semitism. He meets, obviously, with a great many obstacles, including his girlfriend, Kathy, who is a ninny. But there’s a conversation Kathy has with Dave, another character, when she tells a story about a man making an anti-Semitic joke at a dinner party. Kathy observes how nobody called him on it, even though they were all sickened by it.

“I wonder if you’d feel so sick now, Kathy, if you had nailed him. There’s a funny kind of elation about socking back. I learned that a long time ago.” Dave says. “It was a story,” Kathy tells him lamely. “Sure, a man at a dinner table told a story – and the nice people didn’t laugh. They even despised him, sure. But they let it pass. ” Dave says. “If you don’t stop with that joke, where do you stop?”

I’m also reminded of a recent discussion Jules and I had about a TV station that showed Gone With the Wind and completely removed all traces of the n-word as though it never existed (read about it here).

“I agree that it’s offensive, damn straight, and I’m not going to associate with anyone who says it,” I told Jules, “But when it’s in a historical context, when you are trying to portray an era in which things were unequal, were prejudiced – you can’t act like people never said it. It’s a corruption of history.”



15 responses

28 08 2007

I think some people just get too carried away with the idea that, “With our thoughts, we create our world.” While that might be true to a degree for ourselves, we can’t create the world for others. They have the right and obligation to creat their own. The problem is when our “worlds” collide.

It reminds me of a criticism I read a long time ago about the misuse of “positive thinking”. It said something to the effect that if you are trying to grow a garden and it is full of weeds, you can’t just think “There are no weeds. There are no weeds.” to change the reality of your situation. You cannot deny reality. You need to look at it, acknowledge it, and then you can choose how to deal with it, “positively” or not.

28 08 2007

Hi D — you make me think of more connections. 🙂

I was just out picking up FavD and we went to the bookstore to fetch a musical theatre cast recording we’d ordered for an upcoming show. While there we browsed the magazines as we love to do, and I came home with a new issue of “Philosophy Now: a Magazine of Ideas ” because the cover story and theme of the whole issue is “Who Are You? Personal Identity and Time, Memory, Continuity, Freedom.” In the piece about identity and continuity, the point was that there are problems with both physical reality and belief reality as human identity. SOooo – the solution is that we are what we choose to “do” and so what we experience defines us, to the extent that it influences what we do in response.

I guess that means homeschoolers really DO define each other and maybe all parents, and that black people define each other just by acting to define themselves, and parents define who their kids are even if they don’t try to, with every nurturing or even neglectful action etc — because we do interact with each other and influence each other’s actions and reactions, like it or not.

I wonder if that means weeds are a defining part of any garden and of us as gardeners, whether we manage to keep them at bay with our various actions or not, even if we never plant a garden because we know about the tendencies of weeds and are discouraged by them, decide not to fight them? 🙂

We know School is a major definer of our society, and maybe we don’t think enough about how it surely must also help define homeschooling and unschooling — even just because we know about School. The more we talk about it and study it and write about it and worry about it and plot to fight it off, even to advocate against it and insist we must stay free of being defined by it, is it nevertheless defining us all the while?

28 08 2007

I don’t know if Young Earth Creationist’s are misreading their own holy writ (JMO, of course); but they are misreading society’s best interests when they misdefine science and coopt its language to suit their own purposes. That’s why understanding the “Teach the Controversy” strategy is so important, in my view. Words like critical analysis, reason, inquiry-based science have lost their meaning, having instead become code words used by enemies of critical analysis, reason, and inquiry-based science for the purpose of teaching beliefs as science.

Chris Hedges (American Fascists): “The role of creationism is extremely important in this (Christian Reconstructionist) movement. It’s not just wacky pseudoscience. It is really a war against truth. It is not about presenting an alternative. It’s about saying facts are interchangeable with opinions, that lies are true, that we can believe whatever we want.”
(Link to interview.)

Same deal with the American History (HIS Story) revisionism, which is a great example of “stubborn symbolic belief.” Your point that “it’s all some folks have, the only story with any power to put them on top of a social group, and so they are willing to turn the sciences of larger society upside down, on the basis of that belief” is so on target, I believe. It’s why they clutch so tightly to their “fantastical identities,” faithful and steadfast against the lies of secularism.

Guess I’ll cut the diatribe short (not as long?) now 😉

Great post!

28 08 2007

Ooh, and how about the science (psychology) of sports, which I’ve just been reading about as the Red Sox approach clutch time and tennis champions like Roger Federer meet in the US Open?

The NYT just ran a funny column with different ideas of how to beat Roger — sneaky if not criminal ideas because he’s so dominant (unbeatable) on the up-and-up — but one answer was serious, from DR. ROLAND CARLSTEDT, chairman of the American Board of Sport Psychology:

My research on over 1,000 athletes, including hundreds of ranked tennis players, has isolated three psychological factors that are the most critical factors in driving peak and critical-moment performance, choking tendencies and overall mental toughness. The measures — hypnotic susceptibility, neuroticism and repressive coping — work together to mediate brain-mind-body processes that underlie technical performance.

The ideal athlete’s profile is high or low hypnotic susceptibility, low neuroticism and high repressive coping, whereas the worst profile is high hypnotic susceptibility, high neuroticism and low repressive coping.

If I were to assume that Roger Federer has the ideal profile, there are still minor vulnerabilities associated with this profile, including the tendency to know it all, lessened coachability and annoyance with those who dare challenge or contest athletes with this profile. These characteristics may explain why Federer has been without a coach for much of his career — something that could eventually haunt him by preventing him to conceptualize ideal game plans and also prevent him from accessing psychological interventions that can help all athletes enhance recovery, sleep and immune function.

The best way of increasing the odds that a player could beat Federer would be to prime him psychologically through advanced mental training techniques to carry out a meticulously and scientifically based game plan that is designed to expose Roger’s minute weaknesses. By engaging in sophisticated and high-tech approaches to motor training and mind-body control, procedures that I have validated through extensive testing, a player who can last and go toe-to-toe with Roger or even pull ahead of him has a chance of winning.

The ability to stay with Federer game after game is something that can impact a player with the ideal athlete’s profile, since they are not used to being tested or having their high level of self-confidence and self-esteem attacked head-on.

28 08 2007

You could say Roger Federer is defined then (or defines us) more by what we DON’T know about him, rather than what we DO know? We don’t know how to beat him, to win against him. 🙂

And if science doesn’t do the trick, other actions will have to serve? I was trying to explain the pickpockets in the musical Oliver! to Young Son yesterday, and I went into a whole historical explanation of gypsies, street cons, Robin Hood, the French Revolution and the Boston Tea Party, etc — how clever, enterprising people boxed in by society without legal options will make extralegal or outright illegal options for themselves. . . .

So could we say a society or subgroup defines itself in part then, by how systemically it forces the rest of us to accept illegality in our responses? (feeling feisty, oh my, this is heady stuff, I just might not send in my homeschool evaluations on time!) 😉

p.s. More confused and misconstrued science and belief, from the Oliver! link re: real-life “pauper apprentices” :

In an 1836 survey of doctors, almost half believed that long working hours didn’t contribute to poor health in children. . . Dickens through his writing, speaks out against such treatment and encourages reform.

28 08 2007

Does anyone think the Reconstructed Tut favors the Reconstructed MJ?

The radio story reported that some of the identity-insistent protestors put this face up next to Barbra Streisand’s in a slide show mocking the science. I hate to admit it but — good one, wackos!

29 08 2007

TODAY’S UPDATE – way to go, Annette Hall! (we knew her when . . .)

“Homeschool expert Annette Hall : “The author has provided a tremendous resource of books, videos, historical places and more, to encourage a deeper understanding of the subjects being studied. . .”

“Step Through a Magic Picture Frame:
A New Approach to Teach Kids History and Moral Lessons

Anthony and the Magic Picture Frame: New, Award-Winning American History Book Excites Kids, Provides Tools for Parents, Teachers, and Homeschoolers.

29 08 2007
The Principles of Sociology (Part 1) « Cocking A Snook Too!

[…] of Sociology, College Stuff, Experimental, Funnies, politics — penguindust @ 12:43 pm As my mom is bursting with pride to tell everyone, I am enrolled in Sociology 101 this fall. It is highly illuminating, and I felt that I should share some of my knowledge with […]

29 08 2007

Something new to share with Young Son about the history/sociology/psychology of pickpockets and gypsies and street people–

“On Poverty, Maybe We’re All Wrong”

this insight — that the fifth ice cream sundae is less valuable than the first one — is enshrined in the law of diminishing marginal utility.

But what if this iron law of economics is wrong? What if it doesn’t apply at every point along the income scale? If you and everyone around you are desperately poor, maybe it’s perfectly rational to think that an extra dollar or two won’t make much of a difference in reducing your misery. Or that you won’t be able to “study” your way out of the ghetto. Or that if you find a $100 bill on the street, maybe it’s logical to blow it on one great night on the town rather than portion it out a dollar a day for 100 days.

On the other hand, maybe the point at which people are most willing to work hard, save and play by the rules isn’t when they are very poor, or very rich, but in the neighborhoods on either side of the point you might call economic sufficiency — a motivational sweet spot . . . maybe the best way to break the cycle of poverty is to raise the hopes and expectations of the poor by putting them closer to the goal line. . .

29 08 2007

So NCLB would be all wrong for top and bottom students, setting its absolute (and absolutely impossible) goals that 100% of every child from every situation will get behind every standard every year? That wouldn’t motivate the outlying kids or schoolfolk, if it seemed either unattainable or uninteresting?

See “The Gifted Children Left Behind” in this week’s WaPo.

Btw I’ve been poring over the new annual PDK/Gallup poll on public attitudes about public schooling. Probably start blogging it before the end of the week . . .meanwhile here’s a (hyped up for my taste) one-page summary interpreting the major trends.

30 12 2007
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[…] organized homeschool hegemony is the truth of this lingering division that some still nurse to justify their own supposedly individual advocacy “to protect […]

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[…] Stubborn symbolic belief in “who we are” beyond all reason and science is all some folks have, t…, and so they are willing to turn the sciences of larger society upside down, on the basis of that belief. . . Meanwhile, the school’s junior-senior prom is Saturday. “I’m kind of nervous about it,” said senior Marina Schlaefli. “I’d rather this whole thing had never happened. It’s making our school look bad, and it’s not a bad school.” […]

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More Than Muslims, Remember Real Threat Today « Cocking A Snook!

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