“Partisan Polarization” Just Another Pathology of Hypercompetition?

13 09 2011

Conservative ideology and racial resentment swamp every other factor. Maybe that doesn’t matter. Maybe it’s counterproductive to even mention racial resentment these days. Maybe it’s unfair to lots of tea partiers who care only about taxes and big government. But unless there’s a problem with Abramowitz’s data, it’s there. Pretending that it’s not doesn’t make it go away. . .

These fears and resentments were of course stoked by right wing politicians, media commentators and websites . . .

There’s been an exhaustion of all patience followed by widespread progressive grumbling (or was that just me?) about the single-minded, spittle-flecked viciousness of win-at-all-costs in our politics, denying the humanity of one’s opponents let alone enemies, up to and including television caesars pandering to the bloodthirsty hordes, Dick Cheney still defending torture for personal profit, Rick Perry supporters cheering executions as pro-life governance.

“How you play the game” isn’t much of a consolation prize for the defeated even when it’s just a game, much less when the stakes are so high that you literally can’t afford to lose. “Living well as the best revenge” only adds insult to injury in forced competition that puts your health, wealth, dignity, liberty and life itself at risk.

We’ve cocked a snook several times at competition versus collaboration in different spheres, wondering whether it’s gotten all out of whack and what those experiences can do TO kids rather than FOR them. We’ve even looked at killer-instinct gameplay about chess specifically, the power of this next story:

I dare say this chess board may survive a nuclear blast! The pieces are made using .223 caliber bullet shell casings, decorated with cuts, slashes, curls and bends.

Photo source

She was, and is, a ferocious competitor, a psychological attribute that is quite separate from purely intellectual ability. As the former US chess champion Joel Benjamin reported after playing her: “It was all-out war for five hours. I was totally exhausted. She absolutely has a killer instinct.

Well, there you go! If only all our daughters were so ferocious about “winning” think what Read the rest of this entry »





USA: Uneasy State of America This Fourth of July

4 07 2011

The Culture War and Cultural Chasms
. . .And so real hatred and resentment blooms thanks to a war by proxy between two groups pretending to be what they are not, but making everyone else pay for their lack of a core identity or any genuine skill of their own. Trash vs Posers.

Beep IS deep. 🙂

Or maybe it’s like an autoimmune disorder wherein the body turns on itself. Our defenses so revved up that we can no longer tell who the enemy is. At times I get caught up in this too. It’s so easy, with the ease at which groups are demonized these days, the constant fear being pumped into our society for the purposes of mass emotional manipulation.

Beep really got my mind going with this (more than I can do justice at the moment, with burgers and corn on the grill.) America is a strong, rich, diverse nation by any measure. We define ourselves by successful competition in every one of those measures — we’re Number One, we’re Number One! Otherwise, who would we be? (WOULD we be, at all, or would America cease to be? )

Isn’t THAT our number one fear, that as we celebrate again for having won the world in the 18th century and defended our title through the the 19th and 20th, that our dominance is behind us, our glory days done, that USA doesn’t mean Number One anymore?

This year, intramural culture wars don’t feel like America’s existential threat most to be feared, more like Read the rest of this entry »





Power of Story in One Teacher’s Century-long Life

17 05 2011

At 100 Still a Teacher, and Quite a Character:

. . . she recalled how difficult it was to get fully certified by a byzantine school bureaucracy. The examiners had her explain a sonnet by Edna St. Vincent Millay, and told her afterward she had given “a poor interpretation.” Having been blocked once before because of a trace of a greenhorn accent, she refused to be stopped a second time.

So she did what any true aspirant would have done: she wrote a letter to Ms. Millay and had her evaluate her interpretation.

“You gave a much better explanation of it than I myself should have,” the poet wrote back, and the chastened examiners saved face by urging Ms. Kaufman to try for the license again.

This power of story goes beyond one poem and what’s in work-school words like teacher, certification and accountability. It’s about human identity, who we are and how we came to be and what to do with it.

Her grandfather was the great Yiddish storyteller Sholem Aleichem, a writer who was able to squeeze heartbreaking humor out of the most threadbare deprivation and wove the bittersweet Tevye stories that became Read the rest of this entry »





Three Power of Story Stories . . .

5 05 2011

to help JJ celebrate this National Day of Reason:

1) You’ve seen this picture.
“It is an image unimaginable 30 years ago. . .”

Now see three reasons it’s worth not only a thousand words but worth more than every history textbook in Texas, and then some.

(If you saw the evangelical Christianist self-styled as an authentic history expert on Jon Stewart last night, you’ll know what I mean. If not, watch this.)

Update – the Jon Stewart interview moved one author to action, reports the Friendly Atheist. She decided to give away for free download her book, Liars for Jesus:

The whole thing is just infuriating. Barton goes on and on (and on), talking over Stewart, saying that Christianity is under attack. Stewart calls him out on it. Barton changes the subject, cherrypicks court cases to prove some obscure point, and acts like he’s victorious. . . .

She’s going to give away her book for free in the hope that the truth can spread.
. . .So download it, read it, spread it, and help put a dent into Barton’s influence. Better yet, buy it if you can so future volumes can be published.

2) THIS IS UNACCEPTABLE! Only reason will beat it back into the Dark Ages. (Do we need a presidentially commanded special ops strike force of REASON?)

3) Edge dot org has an intriguing new conversation up on “The Argumentative Theory.”

Edge is the perfect place for some Day of Reason reading:

EDGE
To arrive at the edge of the world’s knowledge, seek out the most complex and sophisticated minds, put them in a room together, and have them ask each other the questions they are asking themselves.

Read first, feel the sudden warmth of human cognition exciting your synapses, then talk later.
I’ll be here. 🙂





Why Chinese Mothers Are Superior Out Today: So Are They?

11 01 2011

About the author of Battle Hymn of the Tiger Mother:
Amy Chua is a professor at Yale Law School and author of “Day of Empire” and “World on Fire: How Exporting Free Market Democracy Breeds Ethnic Hatred and Global Instability.” This essay is excerpted from “Battle Hymn of the Tiger Mother” by Amy Chua, published Tuesday (today) by the Penguin Press. . .

JJ’s version: This is the VERY foreign, extremely authoritarian hardass bootstrap model reflecting what Michelle Rhee (among too many conservatives and even those who call themselves humanists and progressives but not too often professional educators), touts as “Putting Students First”, demonstrating why I object to her current influence over Florida’s students, much less her attempted influence over America’s third-millennium public education.

Story here: Why Chinese Mothers Are Superior
Can a regimen of no playdates, no TV, no computer games and hours of music practice create happy kids? And what happens when they fight back?

And some backlash here:here:

As Gothamist pointed out, the story’s garnered over 1200 comments; it’s clearly hit a nerve, and not necessarily a positive one. To boot, in the words of a commenter: “I initially thought the article was a spoof, because it was so over-the-top narcissistic and, frankly, racist.”

and here:

Some author quotes:


I’ve thought long and hard about how Chinese parents can get away with what they do.

***********
If a Chinese child gets a B—which would never happen—there would first be a screaming, hair-tearing explosion. The devastated Chinese mother would then get dozens, maybe hundreds of practice tests and work through them with her child for as long as it takes to get the grade up to an A.

************
Chinese parents believe that their kids owe them everything. The reason for this is a little unclear, but it’s probably a combination of Confucian filial piety and the fact that the parents have sacrificed and done so much for their children.

***********
Finally, the day before her lesson, [seven-year-old] Lulu announced in exasperation that she was giving up and stomped off.

“Get back to the piano now,” I ordered.

“You can’t make me.”

“Oh yes, I can.”

. . .She grabbed the music score and tore it to shreds. I taped the score back together and encased it in a plastic shield so that it could never be destroyed again. Then I hauled Lulu’s dollhouse to the car and told her Read the rest of this entry »





Does Michelle RHEE-ly Put Students First?

10 12 2010

Michelle Malkin’s Siamese twin Michelle Rhee (can’t separate them looking or listening) is being interviewed on my small screen this morning, called a “hero” and a “revolutionary” by conservative non-educator white guys on Morning Joe’s set, for what she’s supposedly doing as the real deal children’s advocate, the only one “fighting” for students against their bad old public schools.

She defends her Wicked Witch of the East treatment of DC parents and schoolfolk (see Time article quotes below) saying the one thing she regrets is seeming so mean and angry and imperious.

She claims she wasn’t all that angry, not all the time at everyone at least, and SHE’s the one on the kids’ side against everyone else in education and in their communities, so she will continue mocking and undermining and firing and fighting for unilateral control — except she wants to sound less bitchy, and therefore more bankable, as she does it.

This belated image adjustment apparently is meant to befit and benefit her new personal-public-private Rule the Schools front, dubbed “Students First” because as I hear her, our nation’s students aren’t first in public policy priority so they’re not first competitively, but she can put them first in both senses if we let her run things:

December 08, 2010 posted by Michelle Rhee
International study finds U.S. students far behind those in other countries [read ASIAN students]

Shanghai is first; the U.S. is not. One reason I started Students First is because I know that we can only compete with China and other leading countries if we transform our schools. If we were to grade the academic performance of the world’s industrialized economies, Singapore, South Korea, and now Shanghai would get an A — the United States would get a C, at best, and in math we’d get an F.

But how exactly will she accomplish all this winning? Her education-school reform ideal sounds like little more than inflicting her own poorly-understood dramas and traumas from Korean and American schooling on us all:

Her parents immigrated from South Korea several years before she was born so that her father could study medicine at the University of Michigan.

. . .After Rhee finished sixth grade, her parents sent her to South Korea to live with an aunt and attend a Korean school, a harrowing experience for a child in a strange land with limited skills in its language. When she returned a year later, her parents sent her to a private school because they found the public schools lacking.

And she never explains, or even acknowledges the question of, how the chaotically individualized and nearly ungovernable USA, by emulating Asian schooling for homeogeneous Asian children in ancient Asian cultures, will magically out-Asian them and jump to first again. (What would true original Western education reform look like, hmmm? Radical unschooling?)

I wrote pretty kindly about Colin Powell and his wife, coming at school reform from their own subculture’s education power of story. I can’t and won’t do that with Rhee’s Read the rest of this entry »





What I Heard From Sanity and/or Fear Rally

31 10 2010

An echo.

“When we amplify everything, we hear nothing.” Llike an echo of my own refrain as a new blogger at Culture Kitchen five years ago, urging (in a quite civil indoor voice!) some well-modulated post-partisan Sam Waterston Unity ’08 thinking and talking: Amplifying Our Differences

Amplified sound, in effect, may diminish rather than amplify our individualism, our audience, even our own ability to pay attention or care about all we’ve lost. . .

Should we care, if the heavy bass and deafening levels of powerful modern difference-amplifiers blow out everybody’s eardrums along with our will to live, and thus our chances for ever building any majority audience able to appreciate artistic, nuanced and truly innovative political theatre?

. . .Does it matter if we the people learn to prefer politics to problem-solving, screaming to singing, mass media to personal passion?

I wish the ralliers more luck with being heard now than I had then. America’s appetite and audience seem bigger now for subtle, intelligently designed sounds of sanity, so that’s something.

Maybe as usual I just peaked too soon? I’ve been straining to hear and understand for many years while guns were blazing and sirens shrieking, tuning in earnestly to years of FOX and right-rant radio, trying to figure it out.

It’s insidious. Amplification deafens you to the wrong thing! — by trying so hard to be intellectually curious, fair-minded, engaged and reasoning, I’ve been systematically deafened BY the loudest and craziest, FOR the loudest and craziest, TO all but the loudest and craziest! It feels like a lifetime ago that I could comfortably hear (or speak) real hope about America’s chances of restoring sanity.

So could my personal power of story be that I’ve paid a hubris price for going it alone without publisher or party, hoping I could individually trade off small damage to myself in return for contributing to the common good but failing miserably, like Dr. Jekyll experimenting on himself for good cause but becoming Mr. Hyde?

Halloween two days before a momentous election, is a better time than most, I guess, for ghostly fears to echo. I won’t scream it, but please. Vote.