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Public education

Here's a pretty old post from the blog archives of Geekery Today; it was written about 15 years ago, in 2009, on the World Wide Web.

From Jesse Walker at reason online:

The speech will do little harm in itself. Schools shovel nonsense down boys’ and girls’ throats every day; today’s menu will offer just a slight change of flavor. But that’s why the protests are healthy. It’s a rare day when parents across the country explicitly tell their kids to take their lessons with a grain of salt.

Children shouldn’t be taught that the president—any president—is a beloved paternal figure with a grand plan for everyone. (From the original lesson plan: Students might think about: What specific job is he asking me to do? Is he asking anything of anyone else? Teachers? Principals? Parents? The American people?) Children should be taught the truth: that presidents are polarizing figures who are constantly dogged by controversy. That Americans don’t always agree about proper public policy, and sometimes they disagree enough to do something as drastic as keeping their kids home from school. That politics is about conflict, not listening in unison while a friendly face on a TV screen dispenses instructions.

— Jesse Walker, reason online (2009-09-08): The President Is Not a Guidance Counselor

Read the whole thing.

6 replies to Public education Use a feed to Follow replies to this article · TrackBack URI

  1. JOR

    The comments on that article ought to quickly disabuse anyone of the notion that mainstream leftists ever were or ever will be worth reaching out to.

  2. Rad Geek


    Well, depending on what valence left is supposed to have, I’d probably agree with you. If it means corporate liberal or ‘Progressive’ in the political vicinity of The Nation I strongly agree with you. For reasons broadly like those laid out by John Markley in his posts on liberaltarianism (cough, hack, gag) and left-libertarianism (1, 2, 3), I think that the interesting proposition has to do with engagement with and outreach to the far Left, or to mixed-bag people in their more radical Leftist moods, whereas mainstream liberals and Progressives are generally worse than useless, just as they ever were. (For roughly the same reasons why I disagree with Joan Kennedy Taylor and think that the specifically radical feminist tradition is a much more productive site for libertarian feminist engagement than liberal feminism is.)

    As a heuristic, I figure that if you’re talking to somebody nominally on the Left and their ideal of universally-accessible healthcare is Panther free clinics or Women’s Self-Help community clinics, you’re halfway home already. If their ideal is government mandated monopsony, but they are willing to seriously criticize the Obama administration and Congressional Democrats over their warmed-over corporatist plan, then they have lots of problems, but there is some minimal opportunity for conversation, because they do at least have some minimal willingness to embrace ideas that are radically different from the status quo. If their practical ideal is whatever the hell it is Obama’s suggesting (or if that’s not their ideal, but they don’t care about ideals because they’re more interested in giving props to the party in power) then they are almost surely worth writing off as a waste of your time.

    (I actually have a similar sort of heuristic, also based on reactions to the Black Panthers, actually, for figuring out whether or not nominally Right-wing gun-rights activists are worth reaching out to.)

    Generally speaking, I think that the problem with outreach to mainstream leftists is not so much that it’s to leftists; the main problem is that it’s outreach to the political mainstream.

  3. Bob Kaercher

    Oh, come on. Everybody knows that Jesse Walker is just an uber-right wing conspiracy theorist nut job!

  4. JOR

    Charles, I more or less agree with you. By “mainstream left” I was of course referring to the sorts of people who cry wingnut or start ranting about Republicans doing/saying/being _________ at the likes of a decidedly-not-right-wing-in-any-way fellow like Jesse Walker simply saying that it’s creepy to treat the President as a sort of national Mr. Rogers/Superman and that dissent is a good thing to cultivate in the political culture.

  5. Rad Geek


    Sure. I’d agree with you pretty strongly on that. That kind of reaction to any out-of-mainstream or allegedly indecorous or otherwise un-Serious political expression is, of course, incredibly toxic, and increasingly is becoming the defining feature of mainstream liberals. (Of course, it’s always been a major feature of mainstream liberals. And also of mainstream conservatives, particularly conservative warhawks. It’s a convenient sort of move for mainstreamers in general, precisely because it allows you to write off absolutely any principled political view whatsoever as ipso facto unworthy of consideration, probably deranged, and quite possibly the expression of a diagnosable psychiatric condition. All of which is much easier than actually trying to intellectually defend the obvious clusterfuck of a political status quo that we endure from day to day.)

— 2010 —

  1. Discussed at radgeek.com

    Rad Geek People’s Daily 2010-01-09 – Losers of the World Unite!:

    […] Comments on left-libertarianism and liberaltarianism, from GT 2009-09-08: Public education […]

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