How to ensure that your kids stay stupid

While looking up companies that support gay rights (so I can buy their shit and piss off NOM), I stumbled onto this dingus. He’s a Christian Reconstructionist named Sam Blumenfeld, or “Blumpkin” as I shall call him from now on.  Blumpkin’s article is in The New American, an ironic title since his piece (like every piece at the site) is aimed at taking America back to about the early 20th century or so.

Blumpkin would like to see education put in the TARDIS and taken back a few decades; you know, for the children. You see, liberal socialist progressive satanist marxist humanists have infiltrated the schools with their fancy-schmancy “critical thinking” and deprived students of their god given right to have adults make sure that they spend their formative years on rote memorization, religious indoctrination and corporal punishment. And Blumpkin ain’t having none of that:

Although about two million families are homeschooling their kids, most American parents still send their children to a public school. Few parents, however, know much of what goes on in their child’s school. In most cases they assume that their child’s school is not much different from the school they attended. And since they believe that the school is being run by “professional” educators, they are willing to accept whatever the school prescribes.

Yeah, that sounds like a fair assessment. Most parents assume schools haven’t changed at all, and blindly accept whatever the schools tell them. Sounds like a lot of the parents I know. If by “a lot of” you mean “hardly any of”.

Back in the early 1930s, when I attended a primary public school in New York City, it was easy to know what was meant by the basics: reading, writing, and arithmetic.

Well, back in the 30’s it was also “easy” to know what was meant by “nigger”–especially if you had white skin and a rope. It’s always “easy” to “know” things that you never question. Talk of how simple things were in the old days is usually code for “I never had to think about these things before, and I don’t want to now, ’cause it hurts my brain.” And Blumpkin might respond that he lived in mighty New York City, which is a long way from the dirty South where most of the lynchings took place, but that’s not the point. People tolerated lynchings back then because they just took it as normal and went along with it. It was easy. Things were always “easy” in the past.

Rote was considered okay in those days because arithmetic is a counting system which uses only 10 symbols for all its calculations and requires memorization of the basic facts for optimum use and speed.

There’s definitely some rote memorization required for arithmetic, but it’s a lot more than just that. I’m not saying that 1st graders should learn the Peano Axioms, but they should definitely do a lot more than just memorize multiplication tables. Learning how to use math and why it’s used that way is important, too.

Also, if you think arithmetic is so damn special, then where the hell do you get off saying it “uses only 10 symbols”? Maybe I’m a dumbass, but the basic arithmetic I learned in first grade used the following symbols:

0, 1, 2, 3, 4, 5, 6, 7, 8, 9, +,, /, ×, =, . (, ), <, >.

That’s 20 symbols, leaving out alternative notations like’÷’ for division or ‘*’ for multiplication. I realize that the number of operators exceeds what you need for completeness (for instance, you could express multiplication in terms of addition), but you still need more than just the ten numerals to… Oh, wait, I see. You’re not counting the numerals as symbols. Well, then, you’re stupid. Numerals are symbols too, you know. They have the same rights as functions and relations, you mathematical bigot!

They no longer teach mere “reading.” They teach language arts, literacy, communication, body language, whole language, invented spelling, critical thinking, and HOTS — higher order thinking skills.

Are you saying that  education has become more complicated? That’s horrible! If education doesn’t stay simple, then how can it produce the simple minds we Christians need to swell our ranks?

As for arithmetic, the subject no longer exists. It has been subsumed into what is now called Math and includes such esoteric concepts as set theory and numeracy.

Maybe I’m out of touch, but I have to ask: Is there any grade school in the country that teaches set theory? I didn’t encounter it until college, and I’m sure there are some high schools out there that offer it. But grade school? Seriously? I’d actually be quite impressed to see 4th graders who understood set theory. If they’re out there, then Bravo. If it’s true that grade school children out there can actually understand and use set theory, then I’m fucking glad it’s being taught. But I doubt that it is.

And while we’re talking set theory, Brother Blumpkin, let me take a moment to stipulate the non-empty intersection A∩B, where A = {x: x ∈ “your dick”} and B = {y:  y∈”dicks” and Length(y) < 4 inches}.

Anyways, what’s the big deal about “esoteric” concepts? Why is the “esoteric” so bad? For one, it’s not a good word choice. “Esoteric” implies that it’s some kind of secret info that’s only available to an initiated few (like Xenu for Scientologists), so if they’re teaching it to 8 year olds then it’s not esoteric. I think Blumpkin must mean “abstract”. If so, he’s right that set theory and numeracy are more abstract than simple ‘Rithmetic, but what’s wrong with that? Understanding more abstract concepts requires more mental effort than rote memorization. Is getting kids to actually think really that dangerous?

NB: If you’re a fundamentalist, the answer is “Yes”.

All of these new basics are subsumed under the heading of “cognitive skills,” a term devised by cognitive psychologists who believed that the behaviorists simply did not pay enough attention to what was going on in the mind.

And they were right to do so. The behaviorists were wrong. And I say that as someone earning a Ph.D. from a school that B. F. Skinner once called home. School pride aside, he just didn’t give enough credence to what’s going on in the brain. Why is that a problem?

In other words, the public school is the parochial school of the humanist religion, and the affective domain is the religious aspect of the school’s curriculum. In Catholic schools they teach, or used to teach Religion (the catechism and Bible studies) along with the basics. In Protestant schools they teach, or used to teach, the Bible as well as the Westminster catechism. In public schools they teach humanist doctrines and beliefs in the affective domain.

I hear they also eat puppies.

This “humanist religion” shit probably sounds laughable to anyone who actually attended a public school, where no such thing is taught. But if you want to understand people like Blumpkin, you need to realize that they really believe this horseshit. They actually believe that the underpaid, overworked civil servants in our public school systems are part of a vast conspiracy orchestrated by “humanists” (whatever a humanist is) to lure children away from Jeebus.

I’m not exaggerating. Just look at what Blumpkin has to say next:

What is interesting to note is that the form the basics take is determined by the religious orientation of the school. The old-style basics, the traditional three R’s, are most compatible with theistic, biblical religion in which God is the author of a reality that can be studied and known, a reality ordered by God’s sovereign rule. The new-style basics, or cognitive skills, are a product of humanistic religion and its Darwinian evolutionary concepts of man as an animal, society as evolving toward utopian socialism, and the idea of world government. Cognitive psychology is not only compatible with atheistic behaviorism but also with New Age paganism, mysticism, and pantheistic cosmic vision. It is also compatible with teenage body mutilation and tattooing.

You hear that everyone? Teaching set theory to 9 year olds leads to teens getting nose piercings! Or something. Look, we haven’t worked out all the details. What matters is that we have our ideology straight.

Another thing that’s “interesting to note” is Blumpkin’s use of Christian Reconstructionist concepts such as “ordered by God’s sovereign rule.” Reconstructionists are obsessed with authority, dominion, sovereignty, order, predictability, law and power. Their biggest fears all involve things that might lead to aberration, chaos, novelty or disobedience. Their MO is to insist that the world is strictly ordered while condemning it for not being so.

Also of note is their habit of continually tilting at the same windmills, even long after they ceased operation. Blumpkin is in full assault mode against Marxism, socialism, humanism, and behaviorism–thought systems that were influential in American politics over half a century ago, but carry little more than historical weight today. And I’ll eat my hat* when “pantheistic cosmic vision” is anything but a joke to anyone who isn’t a woo-woo dingleberry selling bogus naturopathic remedies in Berkeley or Portland.

*I don’t own a hat.

As Rev. R. J. Rushdoony has written: “Humanistic education is the institutionalized love of death.” Thus, for many children, a public school education is a death sentence. Since the early 1970s, when death education was introduced in the schools, over 50,000 teenagers have committed suicide up to 1989. By now the accumulated number of suicides is no doubt much higher.

And here is where we can confirm that Blumpkin is, without question, a Christian Reconstructionist. I’ve learned to seek out Rushdoony quotations in right wing rants. It’s usually a sign that you’ve come across a special kind of whackjob–someone who believes some of the most outrageous shit imaginable, but has also taken the time to arrange their beliefs into a system that, if viewed casually, looks intellectual. Imagine a person who meticulously saves and categorizes her poo. That’s what we’re dealing with when it comes to Rushdoony followers.

For the uninitiated, Rushdoony was the founder of Christian Reconstruction and a very influential (though little known) figure on the Religious Right. Rushdoony believed that America was originally established as a sort of medieval feudal state, where power rested in local authorities (for him the county was especially important) and Biblical law reigned supreme. All of biblical law. Including the parts about, say, stoning people to death for adultery. He explicitly stated that this was what we should be doing. And of course gays and atheists would also get their brains splattered everywhere if this ideology won out. It’s scary shit.

Rushdoony also advocated an explicitly conspiratorial and revisionist historiography, wherein Christians had a duty to reclaim history from “secular humanists” and recast it as a black-and-white, us-versus-satan conspiracy narrative in which Christians win in the end and claim dominion over all the world. Why “secular humanism”? It was a term coined by philosopher and education specialist John Dewey, and Rushdoony found his philosophy particularly despicable, so the whole global satanic conspiracy came to be known as “secular humanism”.  Whenever you hear some fundamentalist babbling about “secular humanism” taking over the world, keep in mind where this shit is coming from.

Reconstruction aside, I’d love to see some statistics on per capita rates of suicide among teenagers over the decades controlled for factors like income, social status, mental illness, urban/suburban/rural, population size, etc. But Blumpkin provides none. He just gives us a bare number for suicides and expects us to take it at face value. Given how Blumpkin views math and pedagogy, that’s not surprising.

Today, death education is a permanent part of the humanistic curriculum, marbleized into all of the subjects. Suicide is now the third leading cause of death among teens. According to the National Institute of Mental Health, there are as many as 25 suicide attempts for every single completed suicide. Why are so many teenagers unhappy with their lives in a nation that gives them virtually everything they want?

Ooo! I know! Because they’re surrounded by adults who prefer to shame them into a predetermined lifestyle rather than let them become their own human beings.

“Death education”. Jesus titty balls, you fundamentalists have no shame at all.

Indeed, for this writer, September is the saddest month of the year. It is the month in which four million eager, healthy American children will enter the first grade of the public schools where they will begin the process of learning to hate life and love death.

Yep. That’s what I learned in public schools. Hate life and love death. They were especially insistent during mandatory pep rallies. I really hated life during those.

I also attended a Christian conservative school for eight years. The people there loved life so much that they refused to waste it by living it, and made sure that everyone around them did the same thing. Violators of this ethos were shamed. It was so godly. They also had mandatory pep rallies. I just can’t win.

They will be told that they are animals, the products of evolution, and that there is no God in Heaven who loves them.

All of these statements are true, except for the claim about them being taught in schools. Schools barely touch on evolution (bad) and are constitutionally prohibited from making any statements on god (good). But what I find amusing is that there are indeed many children out there who realize that they are organisms produced by biological evolution, and then deal with it and live their lives. Blumpkin, however, can’t handle it. So, basically, he gets owned by 10 year olds on a daily basis.

If they are lucky they will have a Christian teacher who, under her breath, will tell them that they have souls and that God is watching over them.

These are generally the really shitty teachers. But in the Reconstructionist mind, if it’s Christian, it must be good. Blumpkin closes with this:

And what about these pathological killers that are coming out of these humanist schools, where sweetness and light are supposed to prevail? The two killers at Columbine High School were not the normal products of this humanist education — or were they? From what we know, they were Satanists, disciples of the devil, the father of lies, mayhem, and murder. They hated life and loved death so profoundly that they planned to kill a thousand students just for fun. While the school did not endorse Satan worship, it did nothing to stop it because the only way it could have stopped it was to raise the cross of Jesus Christ. Several Christian children were killed because their parents thought they would be safe in a public school. There had been other instances of killings in schools before Columbine. But no one wants to believe that their school might be harboring pathological killers.

How true, Monsieur Blumpkin. Of course no one wants to believe that. I know you don’t want to believe it, but it happens in Christian schools too. Here’s the thing about school shootings: Maybe the problem isn’t “humanists”, but hateful humans. Maybe the problem is complex, involving a lot of psychological and sociological factors that go well beyond a particular person’s religion. Maybe it’s something that everyone–Christian, atheist, Muslim, Jew or anything else–should work together on since it affects us all.

But feel free to keep believing it’s your invisible boogeyman. The rest of us will work on real problems. We don’t need you.

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2 responses to “How to ensure that your kids stay stupid

  1. As a teacher in a public school, I find Mr. Blumenfeld’s comments ridiculous and offensive. I don’t teach kids about religion (nor should I), but I certainly don’t teach them to “love death.” I teach them to think critically and draw their own conclusions. If their religious beliefs aren’t strong enough to withstand actual thought, that’s hardly my problem. Society needs MORE critical thought rather than more sheep-like followers. What a moron.

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