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  • You’ve Got to be Carefully Taught

    Posted by Sgt. Mom on August 11th, 2018 (All posts by )

    It’s got to be drummed
    In your dear little ear
    You’ve got to be carefully taught.
    (From the musical South Pacific)

    Or not taught at all. Last week as I sat in my cosy home office contemplating things, the ebb and flow of the internet brought to me the woebegone maunderings of a (presumably) white and (arguably) somewhat credentialed Millennial, who in her search for meaning and purpose in her life wound up involved in those anti-pipeline protests near the Sioux reservation. The ukase of her lament seemed to be that she had no native culture, not in comparison with those charming and dignified tribal elders. She appeared to view them as benign, terribly exotic, definitely ‘other’ – pretty much the same lens with which the old National Geographic viewed and photographed those interesting aboriginal peoples in far distant foreign lands all these decades ago.

    And it was terribly sad to read, because the poor child does in fact, have a culture of her own – just that she has been deprived of it; deprived by intent or by cultivated sloth on the part of those who should have taught it to her; the unimaginably rich canon knowledge of western culture – our history, art, literature, music, technology, folkways. Homer and Cervantes, Shakespeare, da Vinci, Bach, Beethoven, Wagner and Rossini, Dickens and Twain, Michelangelo and Machiavelli, Brunel and Bruneschelli, the Brothers Grimm, the Brothers Wright, Don Juan of Austria and Ulysses S. Grant, the Duke of Wellington and whoever it was invented the toilet flush valve and the first working sewing machine. Likely all this and more were never taught to her, or what is worse – badly taught and as examples of western racism or whatever. To live without a sense of history is to be adrift in a kind of cultural sensory-deprivation tank, as exhibited by that child.

    I can’t make up my mind which is the bigger crime against the minds of the young these days: the sin of omission in neglecting to teach them anything but the most anodyne little bits and bobs … or the deliberate commission involved in teaching them that western culture is one long sodden exercise in violence, racism, sexism and other -isms yet to be discovered by the tireless exploration of social justice scholars. (I have been told that we have socialist subversion on the part of malignant fools like Antonio Gramsci to blame for this sad state of affairs.) That second alternative has produced bitter, self-involved credentialed idiots like Sarah Jeong, who as of this week still has a prestigious position at our so-called national newspaper of record, the New York Times.

    It is a good thing that many responsible parents are turning to home schooling, I suppose – and that many more miseducated adults are embarking on a belated program of independent self-education. Nature does abhor a vacuum, but shouldn’t our society offer a little more of substance to fill that vacuum? Discuss what can and might be done, if you can bear to contemplate the disaster that is education in the western world these days.


    19 Responses to “You’ve Got to be Carefully Taught”

    1. Mike K Says:

      Nobody is preventing her from getting rid of her stuff and moving into a teepee.

      No toilets, running water, electricity and TV.

      Go for it.

    2. James the lesser Says:

      A woman of Chinese ancestry described her childhood on the radio a few years back. She, to the dismay of her mother, often pled for the family to eat out and get Chinese food–unaware that the daily meals that she took for granted were the real thing.

      I suspect that a lot of folks in the West have, despite the wealth of information available, no strong sense that other people live differently and think differently. And so their fragment of our culture, instead of being something developed and unique, is a universal that some “real” cultures have successfully transcended.

      Or, for that matter, successfully degraded. Deplorables aren’t seen as a culture that values liberty more than security, but as “normals” who have rejected the truth.

    3. Sgt. Mom Says:

      Nothing, really – except her crippling sense of inferiority, and dread of being accused of cultural appropriation. Which has been carefully trained into her, poor kid.

    4. Assistant Village Idiot Says:

      National Lampoon did a “Special White Issue” in the 1970’s. Did you know that Benjamin Franklin was a white man?

      As you accurately note, Europe has a culture, and America has one that is largely, though not entirely derived from it. Fish don’t know they are wet. It is not accidental that this culture is the one being adopted by everyone else, to greater or lesser extent. It provides choices and prosperity. Whether it produces better character, more meaning, or elevated sentiments is more debatable, and it should be more fun to debate, were tempers not so strained. But this culture does what it sets out to do very, very, well.

    5. Assistant Village Idiot Says:

      As to the song, I came to realise that the opposite is true. Prejudice against those who are different is the default of mankind. Rising above that takes enormous effort, and has to be carefully taught.

    6. Sgt. Mom Says:

      Yes, AVI, and it was carefully taught to us for half a century, and what in hell did it get us? The knock-out game, self-segregating citizens of color, and bigots getting hired to be on the board of the national paper of record. No, I’m not the least bitter.

    7. Bill Brandt Says:

      As I have been reposting so much of Neptunus Lex (> 1,600 so far) in several of his posts he lamented what the public schools were teaching his oldest daughter. And in one I remember, the daughter is telling him she learned about racism in WW2.

      By the Germans?, he asked.

      “No, by the American Army”.

      They are being taught, if not to despise American history, to view it as nearly equal to every other malevolent culture.

    8. David Foster Says:

      I wonder to what degree people who think like her are motivated partly by hostility toward their parents. To a pretty substantial degree, I would guess.

    9. David Foster Says:

      In 1940, C S Lewis wrote an essay titled ‘Dangers of National Repentence.’ Apparently, there was a movement among Christian youth to “repent” England’s sins (which were thought to include the treaty of Versailles) and to “forgive” England’s enemies. His analysis of this movement is highly relevant to understanding the motivations of people like the woman mentioned in the Original Post.

      I excerpted the essay here.

    10. Mike K Says:

      Yes, AVI, and it was carefully taught to us for half a century,

      I was raised, with my sister, by a black nursemaid who came to live with us when my sister was born in 1941. She was born in the south and her people owned land.

      She had worked for another family, starting at 16, until the children grew up and she had to move on. She came to us at about 40 and stayed with us until she died at 95.

      She was my mother’s best friend. She converted to Catholicism as we were Catholic.

      I once called her the “N word” and she chased me under the table, with a broom.

      I learned about blacks’ anti-Semitism from her. I think much of it was related to the Jewish merchants in the Black area of Chicago along 47th street.

      In Los Angeles, it has shifted to hatred of Koreans who run the small markets in black neighborhoods, now.

      Blacks, of course, could solve much of this by opening their own markets but they never seem to do so.

      My sister was very pro-black until she was in her 40s. I got into trouble with her for criticizing Martin Luther King when he went into the Vietnam War agitation.

      She married a Chicago policeman and is now very hostile to blacks. partly because he never made sergeant in spite of a Masters in Public Administration.

      He was at the time when all promotions were racially controlled.

      A lot of water over the dam since the 1950s.

    11. Gringo Says:

      Sgt. Mom:

      The ukase of her lament seemed to be that she had no native culture, not in comparison with those charming and dignified tribal elders. She appeared to view them as benign, terribly exotic, definitely ‘other’ – pretty much the same lens with which the old National Geographic viewed and photographed those interesting aboriginal peoples in far distant foreign lands all these decades ago.

      Cousins of mine who live near a res would beg to differ. There is little dignity remaining on the nearby res. Alcoholism is rampant on the nearby res. Local crime comes disproportionately from the nearby res. Over a century of welfare has had a malign effect on the res. When Interior Secretary Watt pointed that out, he was greatly maligned. He was merely speaking the truth.

      Neither original Indian/Native American culture nor the degradation of current res culture are all that conducive to success in contemporary American culture.I had two aunts by marriage who were 1/8 Indian/Native American. They both had successful lives, both as parents and as professionals- one a teacher, the other who rose from secretary to owning her own ad agency. The grandfather of my brother’s best friend in high school left the res to become a successful DC attorney. Get off the res, I say. Or, what could be done to make the res less dysfunctional?

    12. Gringo Says:

      As to the song, I came to realise that the opposite is true. Prejudice against those who are different is the default of mankind. Rising above that takes enormous effort, and has to be carefully taught.

      A story of mine from my travels supports your comment. When I was working in northern Argentina, I traveled to a big city during my time off the rig. At the hotel where I was staying, a toddler- the son of the manager- started screaming when he saw me from some 20 feet away. His screaming response to me continued for several days. Within a week, the toddler became accustomed to my presence. When he saw that his mother was comfortable talking with me, he decided that there was no need for alarm.

      Why did I upset the toddler? My surmise was that my appearance was quite different from what he was accustomed to. I wore glasses. No one else in the hotel did so. I had dirty blonde hair, blue eyes, and was fair skinned. Those in the hotel had black hair, brown eyes, and skin in hues of brown.

      (Northern Argentina has a substantial Indian/Mestizo population- including the town where I worked. Which reminds me of the old Argentine saying: South America begins north of Córdoba. Such sayings also showed me that ethnocentrism or racism is by no means confined to the US. )

      I would add that in my time in Latin America, this was the only time someone expressed such fear of me.

    13. Sgt. Mom Says:

      Gringo, the child was a sadly-under-educated specimen; probably absorbed and believed too many of those ‘Noble Primitive’ narratives – the marvel of all those lovely authentic native peoples with their quaint beliefs and exotic customs, never thinking to examine the reality underneath. I felt rather sad for her; all that empathy, and all she had for it was a starry-eyed “National Geographic” view.
      Someone remarked, years ago – that it wouldn’t be so bad if these enthusiasts for multi-cultural studies actually did more than just the superficial fan-service. If they really embarked on a deep study, learning the languages, immersing themselves deep into another culture, going to live in it, becoming truly one with the object of their interest – well, then, we might get something good and enlightening from them. Instead, they were the intellectual equivalent of the ‘if this is Tuesday, this must be Belgium’ trot through multi-cultural appreciation studies.

      In one of the writer/cultural blogs that I follow, the topic of time-travel and ‘who would you go back in time to assassinate’ comes up. Going back in time and killing Rousseau comes up as a possibility.

    14. Assistant Village Idiot Says:

      Echo that CS Lewis essay David Foster mentions. I have posted on it myself, and used it in my introductory class on the Ten Commandments this spring.

    15. Anonymous Says:

      I had a friend who lived in a tepee for a while (if I remember correctly, it was actually a tent, but that was the idea). I used to visit him for the occasional game of go. He worked diligently to earn the respect of an old Chippewa wise man on the nearby reservation. He eventually succeeded and learned much from the old guy about edible plants. My friend published some of this (what he learned and no doubt what he went on to discover on his own).

      That was a long time ago. Well, holy cannoli! I just found a book of his online. What a world this is with Uncle Google. Edible and Medicinal Plants of the Great Lakes Region.

    16. Clark Says:

      Not sure why that posted as anonymous.

      Clark (which is a little less anonymous)

    17. David Foster Says:

      I have wanted to write a story about a professor who shares the orientation of the woman mentioned in this post. Through some strange event, he finds himself transported back to an encampment of the Plains Indians circa 1840.

      The story is told from the standpoint of the tribe’s chief, who has to figure out what to do with the guy. They have in the the past adopted the occasional qualified and well-liked white person, but….this guy won’t fight, says he’s a pacifist…won’t hunt, he’s a vegetarian. The chief thinks he might be useful as a storyteller (although they already have a good one), but the professor’s way of speaking is just too boring.

      What to do?

    18. Philip Says:

      Hello, Clark. I’m headed to the U. P. soon, so that book has attracted my attention. Thank you for bringing it up. (I’m having a rather hard time typing just now – working my way through a bottle of a fantastic Sonoma Valley Cab. The effects are making themselves evident! Much backspacing required.)

      AVI, I didn’t know that you teach! That sounds fascinating.

    19. Assistant Village Idiot Says:

      @ Philip – Adult Sunday School. My co-teacher this fall is a philosophy professor at St Anselm, so I am in over my head. Yet I persist.