Amurricans dunno much about history…

From former history teacher and professor Paul Street’s May 5 excellent musings on his question: ‘Why Study History?’ at CP.

He’d partially written it as a response to the many librul academic historians who’ve had a whole yotta fun over ‘Dunce Cap Donald’s’ abysmal knowledge of US history, and taking aim at their collective roles in enabling such ignorance.  He of course skewers most high school history teachers for teaching history so boringly that they don’t even try to make a case as to why the past underpins ‘contemporary politics and recent history. As in: ‘Names, dates, prepare for the test’.  What he’d discovered during his many years of teaching college history showed him this:

“Historians’ nasty name for doing that is “presentism” – the sin of not appreciating history on its own terms and for its own sake.  It wasn’t just a left vs. liberal thing.  It was a professional class division of labor thing.”

Street skewers Herr Trump and his backers’ call to ‘Make America Great Again’ with a laundry list of generally ‘consigned to the memory hole’ actual history of racism, Jim Crow laws, genocide, chattel slavery, child labor, death by back-alley abortions, Japanese internment camps, the murders of labor organizers by Pinkertons and militias…well, you get the drift.

Under Decoding Propaganda Street opens with:

“Done well, history helps us de-code propaganda by providing us with an informational basis with which to respond to the remarkable extent to which American rulers rely on historical narratives and claims to sell their policies and doctrines idea even in a nation famous for not knowing or caring about history.  It’s helpful to know a thing or two about what the nation’s profoundly anti-democratic and aristocratic Founders [his essay at Telesur ‘Enough with the Holy Founders’ Undemocratic Constitution’] were really all about the next time you hear some politician invoke them to advance or oppose some policy or candidate in the name of democracy.”

…and a long list of things it would be ‘good to know’ about both internal and capitalist Imperial agenda.

He makes quite a case for the reasons that truthful and well-taught history is a weapon against ruling class authority:

“Done right, without ideological blinders, history is a radically democratic weapon in the struggle for social justice, ecological sustainability, and popular sovereignty.” [snip]

“(All those reasons I gave above for why history matters to the present are from an opening lecture [titled “Why Study History?”]  I used to give in any and every history class I ever taught.  It was a very effective talk. I was not aware of a single other history professor who ever opened like that.  I imagine some did and do, but I suspect it is very rare).” 

But this caught my eye, especially the portion I’ve bolded:

“[Knowing truthful history] …takes us to the developmental taproots of contemporary problems like sexism, classism, racism, imperialism, militarism, and ecocide, showing how and why all of these evolved over time out of decisions and paths taken by human beings, not the mysterious workings of some dark, all-powerful deity and/or “human nature” – or some other form of imposed destiny.

Originally, I’d meant to offer that paragraph as a springboard to an open discussion of ‘human nature’, and I still hope to, but given that I’ve decided to focus on education for now, especially as Susan Babbitt, author of ‘Humanism and Embodiment’ added a few twists to ‘education’ in her May 8 ‘May Day Marches Against Trump: Confusion or Worse?’ at CPWhat she brings to the notion of true solidarity is an eye-opening education in its own right, as well.

“May Day is about solidarity, which involves sacrifice. Che Guevara warned of a facile view: You support a cause, wishing “the victim success”, as if “cheering on the gladiators in the Roman circus”. Instead, he pointed out, solidarity is joining “the victim in victory or death.” It can’t be done without giving up something. The sacrifice part of the idea gets lost.

May Day celebrates solidarity with the oppressed. It is not “fellow feeling”. Fellow feeling is that sense of togetherness we get under a banner or a flag. Existentialists called it the “public mind”. It’s useless for solidarity with the oppressed. They are the ones invisible to the public mind.” [snip]

“It means losing an identity-conferring history, and taking on that revolutionary emotion called shame.  It can’t be done comfortably. Trump is a red herring. But the May Day confusion goes deeper. Neither solidarity nor “the people” arise from fellow feeling, at least not the kind above. Guevara argued that they become possible through shared humanity, which must be discovered.

[Latin American independence leader José] Martí went so far as to name “false erudition” a major barrier to independence.  He meant Europeans’ view of knowing. It was about gain: possessing knowledge. Martí wasn’t against knowledge. But being learned is more interesting, and challenging, than a headful of knowledge.

We can’t be educated, Martí proposed, without sensitivity. To be educated, to be cultured, we have to be able to feel. We have to be capable of response, of connection: human connection. It’s a bit of a lost art. But it is how people – the ones previously unknown, and unrecognized – become known.” [snip]

“Human beings are punishing ourselves. Marx did not say, as some accuse him, that in a socialist society there will be no greed and hatred.  Instead, in a society better fitted to human nature, people will be less likely to build lives informed by greed and hatred.

To make everything about gain, including education, contradicts human nature. It is against our need to know. In Caracas (1999) after Hugo Chávez’ election, Fidel Castro said people suffer because of an idea: the “nicely sweetened but rotten idea” that human beings are essentially motivated by material gain.

It turns out not to be true. Studies show that only for simple, uninteresting tasks do material incentives inspire better results.  Anyone who thinks about it sees it’s a silly idea. Human beings go to great lengths for activities that bring no material gain.” [snip]

May Day marches in Havana are against a world-order that glorifies gain. Cuba’s May Day is about ideas: solidarity, among others. If such ideas could be recognized, even just as worth pursuing, we might have productive confusion: small but useful doubts about the absolute priority of gain. Not raising such questions is really the bigger danger.”

My guess is that both authors would have loved John Trudell, who’d once opined that Amerikkan education is indoctrination.

44 responses to “Amurricans dunno much about history…

  1. State legislatures required American history and civics in public schools as means of indoctrinating the turn-of-the-1900s USian civil religion. Thus the insistence on beginning the day with the Pledge of Allegiance (even before the words “under God” were inserted in the Brown v. Board of Education year of 1954). When teachers in the 1970s and 1980s began, with the help of new textbooks to actually teach some of the complexities of history, the “teach to the test” laws since the 1990s has yanked them back, few as they were at the time.

    Meanwhile academic history has fragmented into specialities such that there are still folks like Street who can keep employed. And there is enough feedback into academic history from local history and genealogy and better access to primary materials that many of the details of the civil religion mythology have been undone (and not just the exposure of Parson Weems’s fictions).

    The best way to learn an appreciation for history these days is to either research your own family history encountering and finding ways around the “brick walls” or to do the same for you most local community. So this weekend I find out that the Missus is a descendant of a Dutch sea captain who married in 1652 a lady born in Fort Orange New Netherlands in 1630. That means that even my Yankee missus cannot escape the taint of US slavery; in the 1630s-1650s Dutch ships had a monopoly on the slave trade because the Netherlands ousted the Portuguese from the slave ports in West Africa. Try to teach that history abstractly in a history class. The captain became a landlubber after marriage, settled for a while in Bergen County NJ; his son went out as a tenant of a guy with a land grant for Poughkeepsie NY. So the missus is a descendent of guy of small means who is celebrated as a pioneer of Poughkeepsie and Dutchess County, one of the wealthiest counties in the nation with lots of old money back to the Vanderbilts. Her ancestors soon moved on in search of opportunity near Rochester NY. My own ancestors were mostly small farm owners, tenant farmers, or farm laborers in the interstices between Southern plantations. Of course, they were drafted in 1863; that means that they successfully sat out the war for two years regardless of their opinions. One died in a prisoner-of-war camp in Elmira NY. Another was released from the Petersburg Virginia military hospital when Grant’s army took Petersburg, was paroled, and went home weeks before the war’s end; he was always the celebrated Confederate veteran in his little hamlet. The one who volunteered in 1861 was soon back home without seeing action; he was a blacksmith, could afford to own a slave, and patented the design for a plow the he (or his slave or the both of them) had created; enough for him to be in the Masonic lodge locally.

    There is more, but I’ve made my point about finding the richness of ones own history even if that search is seemingly frustrated by efforts to hide that history. Even African-American and indigenous histories weave themselves through census and court records; my next door neighbor is an African-American/Tuscarora descendant from a county filled with swamps that formed a refuge for people in the post-Tuscarora war period, and later integrated into the slave communities of the county through capture and marriage. It certainly can be followed back for her family in the decades back from 1940 to 1870. In 1850 and 1860 there are slave schedules. Beyond that the trail gets difficult for family history, but there are community history and traditions that fill in the outlines. The efforts to hide that history are such that the indigenous descendants in this county have no relationship with the Bureau of Indian Affairs and are not federally recognized despite being recognized by the State of North Carolina.

    Part of critical thinking is being able to face the darkness in your own family and community history. Those folks demonstrating against the demoting in New Orleans of P.G.T. Beauregard from a hero of the Lost Cause to just another bigot and traitor struggle to do that. Also, they likely are descendants of those conscripted in 1863 who owned few or no slaves and were the “poor man’s fight” of the Civil War. The glorious past and splendid plantations of P. G. T. Beauregard are an aspirational family history and heritage. It is that aspiration that is being taken away. Critical thinking and accurate research would have already disposed of that aspiration. Chances are that if you are struggling today, you were not among the grandees of the past; capitalism, feudalism, and other systems just seem to work to perpetuate class structures.

    • i’d read a bit about the more nuanced arguments afoot in new orleans, yes. as to this: “When teachers in the 1970s and 1980s began, with the help of new textbooks to actually teach some of the complexities of history…” i suspect that totally depended on where you went to school. how many districts chose books showing the glories of american exceptionalism, or taught that any of the chicano/black struggles were treasonous, or that teaching those subjects would and did get a teacher fired?

      oh, i agree that local history sources and genealogical inquiries can shed a whole lot of light…but srsly, THD, how many have the time or the wherewithal for that?

      street, as you may have seen, did mention the fractured specialization, but noted that it led to having fallen “so far away from “grand” and synthesizing narratives into an ever-multiplying panoply of overly disconnected sub-specialties that encourage a sort of divide-and-conquer incapacity to think big. They till so many different little gardens that they lose touch with the broader commons of the human past. It’s all very “post-modern” – and stupid and boring.”

      very interesting stuff you and miz have discovered, though; thanks for the report. taint? i guess i don’t think so, as she didn’t choose who to be born to (contra some folks’ beliefs), nor did she likely profit from their deeds (i’m assuming). i admit i’ve zero interest in my relations on either side past what was in the family bible my greedy sister kipped for her own. my paternal grandfather and great-grandfather were greedy industrialist sum-bitches; on my mum’s side…not. my sister became like the former, i like the latter. more of the sort that susan babbitt spoke of. ;-)

      and i do so hope you read my answer to you on the chenoweth diary. my sense was that you were confused as to what kai newkirk’s thang was about: “get money out of politics by so many arrests…”, and when. nope, people must have sensed that it wouldn’t amount to a hill o’ beans toward their stated goal. and oh, did he grouse about it on twitter, as i recall, then called it all a great success.

      • Yes to “depends on where you went to school”. I know many teachers skipped the African history and labor history sections of the books that they were issued by school districts and that the Texas school board started dominating textbook content.

        Local history and genealogy don’t take the time and expense they used to thanks to online resources like the LDS Church’s Family Search. And increasingly, local libraries and government offices (registers of deeds, probate courts) have their historical records online as well. The BLM has all of the land grants online (found some for my son-in-law’s ancestors in Alabama and Arkasas). And Internet Archive has a lot of county land directories for a specific late 19th century year (midwest primarily in the 1880s) as well as local histories that are out of copyright protection.

        “Taint” is the current (and I hope future) judgement about the evil of slavery that so many of the Southern heritage have difficulty coming to terms with. Personalized religion arose in the South (and other places) after the Civil War to preach a morality that the folks in the pew were not guilty of breaching. Prohibition orgininally came out of the women’s movement, not the churches. Interesting, eh what? The Southern neo-Confederates are stuck focusing on the “taint” and trying to make a virtue out of it. The Neo-Confederate offspring of Union Army ancestors are just fixated on the transgressive nature of being a white supremacist. The neo-Nazis often are descendants of the fascist movements of the 1920s when they are not obsessed with the symbolic power of the symbols and the power of transgressive politics. That the media have white-washed this with their stories about the white working class makes it much more difficult to deal with because all solutions to the class issue are automatically fragmented by their identity politics.

        Difficult families are difficult to gin up an interest in researching, but difficult families often tap something in the zeitgeist of the time. Same for difficult/traumatic localities and local history. It really gets sociologically interesting once you get beyond the personalities that the internal family history has stories about. For example, it turns out that the road one of my ancestors lived on in South Carolina (and next to one of the largest slaveowners in that part of the county) went down to a ferry slip on the PeeDee River, which was how the cotton crop was hauled of of that part of the county and floated down to the port of Georgetown SC; railroads came late to this part of the state. The river traffic finally was undone by highways and trucking, not rail. I’m not sure how many researcher in that area know that context for all of their family trees and elaborate military history. One lucky find of a book on regional canals at the public library and about 30 minutes gave me the context of an old map (from the state archives website), and the order of families in the US Census. (The households and families were in order down the road; the major owners were on the map.)

        Successful industrialists generally left account books that showed exactly how they made their money and more often, whom they loaned it to (or borrowed if from). Some eventually find their way to public libraries or college libraries. Often they also leave correspondence illustrating their attitudes and understanding of what they were about.

        Even the family bible that recorded births and deaths can be and interesting document, for who published it (signs of denominational affiliation). My own grandmother recorded the births of her two sons in Ellen G. White’s The Great Controversy between Christ and Satan (1911 edition); she was not a Seventh Day Adventist; likely it was an impulse purchase from a travelling book peddler. She was married to my grandfather in 1912; my dad was born in 1915. Likely, this was at the time the only book in the house. She had no old bible with previous generations.

        • i do understand searching is easier now, but still, so many of us in this nation are simply burned out trying to pay our bills, which always has seemed part of the subtext plan to avoid activism. so of those who might be interested, and have the wherewithal, i’d still reckon…not many. but i’m tickled your finding so much fascinating family history for both you and miz.
          the map: yep, that would have been a prize.

          thanks for explaining ‘taint’ further; i think i get it now. ‘member when ‘taint’ meant any percentage of black blood among the racists and anti-miscegenation multitudes? ye gods and little fishes.

          i reckon my sister may have poked into some of our paternal family. grandpa weaver and great-grandpa weaver were in steel, big steel. hah; my sister announced while i was scribbling down some births and deaths from said bible on the crap piece of brown paper she gave me (with a no. 2 pencil): “i’ve always been sooooo proud that they went to harvard!” but then, trying to escape your ‘weaver’ roots may have been part of it. guess i was so unimpressed i hadn’t even remembered it, lol. i just know my grandparents were cruel as hell to my father and mother. money was what mannered; the original ugly americans, and my sister and her husband are exactly the same.

          ah, yes, carrie nation (later ‘carry’) and friends spiked two separate amendments, didn’t they? wild and wooly women!

  2. Here in Arizona and under public law, I am prohibited from advocating a foreign language despite English being recognized as a foreign language. And if so, I can be prosecuted and convicted for Treason, and where I would be “sent” for my incarceration, has yet neither determined nor decided.

    Consequently, my history for being a Yaqui and Apache, I leave to my extended family and where this history continues to handed down and done in verbal form. Therefore, my focus in on the future and where the following is going to take place despite all the prohibitions defined via the number of Constitutions that I contend with, are placed in my pathway. Thus, I much prefer the pending onset for Freedom that is:

    1. the Multicultural Society
    2. the Multilingual Society, and
    3, the Multi-Religion Society.

    And taken together, makes me somewhat short-sighted, and which I view as a “light burden” that I carry forward relative to my civic engagement. Further, each of us didn’t select our parents, and their “history,” we are the history that we create amongst ourselves, as both colleagues and friends, determines our Graciousness and Wondefulness. And my DNA already includes these two elements, or I would like to think so. As such, “connectivity” does defines us as well given that my view of the “deep state” is the internet, for me at least.

    And as a quiet chuckle, I view the Pentagon and in particular, the 19 intelligence-gathering agencies roaming in the back forty or the paddock as each sees itself as the self-serving white Buffalo, that is foraging for a ‘new’ history, as well, given today’s level of “influence.”


    • that’s right; i’d forgotten about advocating for ‘another language’ being named seditious in AZ! gads, remember the books banned by tucson unified school district? and the chicano studies program went down the river? i remember writing about a caravan from south of the border loaded with books that folks brought to tucson to give away at outdoor stalls. marvelous, inspirational, my stars!

      could you add ‘or no religion’ to your list? and…i may not be getting your drift on the 19 nat sec agencies, but i do have heart for the fact that arvol looking glass, cheyenne river lakota (oyate), is the 19th keeper of the white buffalo calf pipe w/ all its attendant prophecies. don’t mean to be a diletante indun lover (h/t tony hillerman), but…there it is. ;-)

      sleep well, dream well if you can. i am soooo done for the night, and need to build up the fire; it’s downright chilly again.

  3. What an excellent and timely thread. Street is bang on, IMO.
    Those who do not know history cannot grasp the full context of their lives.
    As to human nature; it is often stated that this one or that one committed an un-natural act. Everything humans do is within their nature. I submit, no living creature can act against it’s nature.
    At best, we act against our mores and norms; and those are societal constructs.

    • Thanks for the edit WD.

    • nor the full context of their nation’s collective deeds, thus likely trajectories. it may have been MLK who’d said that it people were ignorant of history, it was because they didn’t want to know. while one could make a case for that, and given the way history is taught in the US, you’d have to know what you need to know, as per THD’s recipes. bother; there was something else i’d meant to mention, but…there it went into the Lost and Lost box in the corner.

      interesting comment on human nature; i hope to create a diary for that discussion, but far too often, even though i have notes accumulated, some other rabbit jumps up, and i follow it down the path instead. oh, and i changed the word; it does improve it. ;-)

      • …you’d have to know what you need to know, as per THD’s recipes.

        I cannot possibly agree with that; a healthy curiosity would suffice; one thing leads to another; and if curiosity is alive and well, will lead down the rabbit hole to; who knows what; but surely a world not known through public education.
        Howard Zinn opened many doors with one book. Surely he presented many topics for further exploration.
        I guess, unlike many Usians, I’ve been blessed (from early childhood) with an insatiable curiosity for everything. I follow, literally, the myriad paths that true learning opens for everybody; but the evidence would indicate few follow.
        Oh well, cheers from the Hermitage.

        • so you seem to be saying that you’d never accepted the white-washing of US history taught in school? i did. before we got wifi internet, the only contrary evidence we got here at home was by way of the original ‘mother jones’ investigations, along with a few other print magazines. only had one teevee station here in the canyon until relatively recently.

          many of us have had similar curiosity, but as to discovering more truthful sources? or in what subject area/s, that’s a different thing altogether. i hadn’t ever heard of zinn’s 1980 book before internet access. but good on you.

          how many knew the actual history of the US and north korea, or between the koreas before b and a couple others (now many) educated us? or the actual numbers of heads of state the US deep state overthrew or assassinated (including mosaddegh in 1953) since then? things like that; i sure hadn’t. revised history has been eye-opening to me, and sussing out the truth of the revised histories is hard to sort thru due to bias, of course.

          yep, we’ll just have to see this a bit differently, i reckon.

          on edit after more slow-brain musings: how many knew radical MLK, not the sanitized version before the internet? not even the black lives matter folks, nor did they know of malcolm x or other heroes of the movement. how many in rural amerika even have alternate history books in their libraries? we sent a bunch of ours to the ferguson library when they’d made a general request for them. how many had any clue that the soviets lost 11 million to fight the germans and axis powers in wwII? even now, obomba got away w/ never giving them a mention in his stupid speeches on WWII celebration days. wtf? oh, yeah: can’t credit the damned commies, can we?

          for that matter, how many of any color had any clue ahead of the Operation ghetto storm 2012 report that so many blacks were killed extra-judiciously ever 24 hours? sorry i’ve forgotten the number an am too lazy to google… yes, radical blacks would have studied as and where they were able, but their knowledge was largely experiential, not academic, wouldn’t you think? how many knew of mario savio in 1964? or know now when his predictions and solutions have become more useful than ever before?

          ah well, anyway; gotta go. rant off. for now.

          • Good histories on the Korean War awaited the declassification of the documents from the war. And parallel declassification of documents from other countries. North Korea was so destroyed that even if the country declassified its Korean War records, it is unclear what would have survived.

            It is much easier to find information in the middle range of history than most recent and most ancient. For family history in the US, having a known person and location in 1940 gets you started with the US Census, which keys birth dates and siblings and allows running back to as early as 1850 in about a day’s research. For African-Americans, it is 1870 you get back to quickly; moving to the correct slave records (unless they were fortunate enough to be free blacks inside or outside the South) takes some time because all you have is the age and the location in 1870. Finding other records in that location generally helps; often there is internal family stories that tell the tale one people recognize what those stories mean.

            Ramparts magazine in the 1960s (Wikipedia sez: Under editor Warren Hinckle, the magazine upgraded its look, converted to a monthly news magazine, and moved to San Francisco. Robert Scheer became managing editor, and Dugald Stermer was hired as art director.) was available at the college bookstore at Clemson University (SC). They broke the story on the CIA subversion of the National Student Association (apparently an early Ivy-Seven Sisters pipeline into the Agency). That was one of my dissonant sources in undergraduate years.

            Then for good little United Methodists like I was at age 18 in South Carolina, there was the college-age oriented magazine motive. Thankfully, Boston University has digitized the entire history of this magazine, which in the early 1970s did issues on the Indian movement, the Women’s movement, and the Gay Liberation movement (the penultimate issue); the last issue was published only as a cover and a letter explaining that the PTB had killed the magazine.

            BU’s scans – sample carefully in the 1967-1972 era. They early on opposed the Vietnam War but by 1968, they were running Carl Oglesby’s and Richard Terrill’s writings.


            As you can see from the URL, this is part of Boston University’s archiving of material from the USA student Christian movement, which arose after World War II and wove in and out of the civil rights movement in the South and the opposition to the Vietnam War.

            The unintended consequences tale in all this. Hillary Clinton’s reading of an article by Carl Oglesby, who she misidentifies as a Methodist theologian (that was Richard Schaull; Oglesby was a leader in the Students for a Democratic Society) caused her to switch from being a Goldwater Republican to a McGovern Democrat (at Wellesley).

            What publications like motive did during the Vietnam War was broadened the anti-war movement without sacrificing too much depth of critical analysis. They published Thomas Merton and Thich Nhat Hanh as well as Oglesby and Terrill. The zeitgeist was still to ideologically constrained even 15 years after the end of McCarthyism to permit the range we currently have–David Harvey, Richard Wolff, David Graeber, bunches of younger critical writers.

            And we have more critical histories as a result of the post-Cold War opening up of opinion.

            And, yes, in 1964, Mario Savio was mainly known as the the guy who wanted to say “fuck” in public — the Free Speech Movement. Lots of rounds of adults playing “Ain’t It Awful” were played over that one.

            Another little random crossing. Father James Fisher, the priest who stood on the police car at Berkeley calling for calm was exiled to Clemson University as a “reward” for his peacemaking. He provided a bunch of us South Carolinians insight into what the uproar at Berkeley was all about.

            It doesn’t take much reflection to see that daily life really was bound up with recent history in strange sorts of ways. One of the strangest: I lived and worked in Atlanta in the Carter era. One day I was on an entrance to the freeway. Cops blocked the entrance long enough for two black limousines to speed by. In the window of one of them, I glimpsed the face of Deng Zhao Ping, who with Jimmy Carter, were on their way to one of the diplomatic events. Random. Purely random. But something worth telling the grandkids about.

            • okay, i’m gonna cry ‘uncle’, kinda/sorta lol. but although you use other peoples’ words to minimize/discredit marion savio, i object. he was one hella spiritual human rights activists, having been radicalized in mississippi before he went to bezerkeley, and jazzed up a whole hella lotta folks to get in po-po harm’s way for the causes. hi COINTELPRO file was huuuuge, apparently, and he spent plenty of time in jail. a couple links if you feel like it, the second is a eulogy by sf gate. his word were often spoken during occupy, and were reflected in this class war film you’ll remember. ‘Let Your Life Be a Friction to Stop the Machine’



              oh, and sorry for the haste; i’m making a new batch of face/body cream, and it requires whipping w/ a mixer every few minutes as it cools.

              • Mario Savio in 1964 provided the frame for expanding the movement beyond the South. The free speech in question started as suppression by the university of recruitment for the civil rights movement. As those like Savio dug into who Clark Kerr was, they found some very interesting things that triggered the shape of the Free Speech Movement. Of course, first they ignore you, then they laugh at you, then they fight you, then you win, according to Gandhi. Those other people were trying to dismiss and reduce Savio’s impact. Oh, the multiversity of Clark Kerr still lives. It still radicalizes student activists who actually read their assignments and find out that alas, the university, has historically betrayed its proclaimed values.

                Object away. He was a critical pivot between civil rights and anti-Vietnam. Not the only critical pivots by a long shot, but critical enough to have a big COINTELPRO file.

                • i did object, hence the links i’d offered noting what you’ve noted here, even while saying “but although you use other peoples’ words to minimize/discredit marion savio, i object.”

                  i srsly couldn’t countenance having such a revolutionary human rights figure be represented by those words only here at this tiny café.

                  on edit, and again in haste due to RL: it would indeed be an interesting thought experiment to hear what the free speech movement *isn’t about* at bezerkley now from the grave, but it may be that all the hippie-punching has been a pre-arranged spectacle.

  4. for THD and v arnold before i shut down for the night: it’s so kewl that you both are such curious bastids that you were able to see thru the educational propaganda machine, as well as use your own local experiences to delve into the truth. but i’ll remind you again: you are the exceptions to the rule.

    the old saw about ‘if it’s not in one’s interest to believe x, y, or z’ may be applicable to a degree, but how many amurrikans (as well as our alleged democracy would have benefited from both better, more ‘less amerikan exceptionalist’ drivel history teachers and social studies teachers?

    and in the end, my face cream flopped anyway. try again tomorrow. ;-)

    • Thanks WD; I’ll take that as a compliment.
      In 1959 at the age of 14 I wrote an essay on the history of the U.S.; the violent, racist, history of the U.S. from day one.
      A friend of the family, a man, had a 5 minute radio show sponsord by PG&E (Pacific Gas and Electric); so I brought my essay for him to read (at his home).
      He got very upset and roundly criticised me for what I wrote. I was crushed, but, I also knew I was correct. In the late 60’s this guy and I went head to head on the Vietnam war (he was a reserve naval officer) and, in front of my parents, all but threw me out of the house (his) for my views on the wrongs of fighting in Vietnam.
      Michael Parentti was another early influence along with Thomas Merton (as also mentioned by THD) and many others.
      I understand where you’re coming from WD and I try hard not to be too hard on my fellow Usians, but that’s often very difficult.

      • yes, please do take it as a compliment, v arnold. but i will say that you seem to take both sides of the ‘mis-education’ issue. but never mind…

        • Really? Kindly illustrate how I take both sides of the mis-education issue.
          I am most interested…

          • “Street is bang on, IMO. Those who do not know history cannot grasp the full context of their lives.”

            he’d provided ample proof, imo, of the reasons that mis-education of history in this country is one of the key ingredients that brought us to this point. then you make a case that the Very Curious can find the true history of the US, but you generously note that you’ll try not to be so hard on USians. and yes, now many could learn more of the truth if they so desired, but sadly, imo, many don’t have the wherewithal. think how many don’t have the luxury of sitting before the warm glow of a laptop reading revisionist histories, or would even have a clue that they should be searching for sources if they could make it to a library at night. that’s all.

            to me that’s inconsistent, but yanno… consistency, hobgoblins, little minds…

            • Wow, I’m gobsmacked by your read of my comments.
              WD, I’m an autodidact; I got my education through curiosity, an insatiable curiosity; combined with reseach which had nothing to do with the internet.
              Yes, I was overly generous towards the Usians; that was for your benefit; my read was, you’d think I was too harsh; well, fuck that! Usians are idiots and directly responsible for their own situations (gloves off) and in fact, I have little to no sympathy for their predicament.
              You have no idea how many times I offer a solution for their fucked lives; what I get in response is whiny excuses why they could not possible leave to find a better life. I was 58 years old, with no job and no prospects; until one offer in Thailand for an American Toy Company. I grabbed it and here I am; 14 years later and content.
              How can I not have contempt for Usians and their utter impotence?
              You are living in a doomed country. I’ll have no part of that.
              Cheers; my intent is to be clear, leaving no doubt as to my position.
              Yours is a great blog; and I hope to inhabit it for as long as I can still type, think, and breathe…

              • glad you’ve taken the gloves off, and making the generous note for my benefit. ;-) you and thd have been clear about the ways in which you’ve self-educated. my point about laptop-learning was meant to show that ‘even now…’

                and i’m not saying amerikans aren’t idiots, but i also blame the mis-education of u.s. and world history as well ‘rulers of the free world’ meme for the utter eagerness to be propagandized, divided into false identity politics, R v D electoral politics, class politics, etc. but i also fault the factory education system (one size fits every student), and its many failures to teach to a kid in the way the kid learns best. that’s a subject i sadly learned to know only too well from experiences when our kids were still in primary school.

                yes, i’ve seen your comments at ian welsh’s place about self-exile, but i dunno that i’d seen the answers. but even if some of us would like to emmigrate, leaving behind kids and grandchirren would obviate the dream, over and above being not physically able to do so. but yes, i’m so glad that you followed your heart and job.

                and even when we disagree, you’re welcome here.

                on edit: on usian k-12 education. last i’d read one in four graduates could barely read, do any math past simple arithmetic, and holy hell, couldn’t even locate the US on a world map. special ed and chapter teachers around here were always ‘out of favor’ w/ a principal, and had no idea how to teach to kids who learn in non-factory-model ways. but what was the answer? private charter schools and vouchers, then of course ‘teach for amerika’ schools w/ 6 weeks of training, and poof! yer a teacher! and cost half as much!

                • If I had a child today; I would never allow the public educational system of any country, school my child/children.
                  Home schooling is the only way to go. An ex-girlfriend home schooled her two boys and the differences were stunning (when compared to publicly schooled kids).
                  One of the best books I’ve ever read is John Taylor Gatto’s; Underground History of American Education.
                  I consider it a must read; priority one.
                  I have a free audio book link to Gatto’s book if your interested.

                  • while i applaud the notion of home-schooling done well (and a few the numerous families who home-schooled kids did it well), it does take one parent not working, which is even more problematic now than when we’d considered it for our chirren. at the time, i spent a hella lot of time working to better the education of all the kids in our schools, and i can say almost without reservation that my zeal and work over a decade+ did not bear helpful fruit. but planted seeds…who knows?

                    yes, others may like the link; for me, given that i don’t process auditory content well, nor can i read dead tree any longer, i’ll have to pass. there’s also the issue for me of not only my RL obligations, but wrangling the café and creating new content, which for me is an increasingly slow process now.

                    but la luna bella was full last night! where did the time go?

                    • What is RL? And no prob, I understand.
                      As a side note; that ex-girlfriend was single and worked as well, she cleaned houses and called her own hours.
                      I’d sooner do a bad job of teaching than turn my kids (given I’d had any) over to the government, for a school year of bullying and tyrany, by peers and teachers.
                      My experience in public schools was horrifying; both psychologically and physically. I’d never subject a child to that abuse for any reason.
                      So, I guess we’ll agree to disagree, and that’s fine with me (it rhymes).
                      That’s a good thing…

  5. Like others, I am of same opinion that this thread on history, is, indeed, wonderful. And my thanks to Wendy for her foresight as well as to those of us and whom have participated.

    For me, “history” has been my primary challenge, since history, has various establishmentarians and tangents, and THD’s approach to the politics of the 1960s, is quite appropriate, when I consider that the anti-war protest movement, had a personal impact on me, despite my being in Vietnam in 1968 and what subsequently “informed” my adult life. And that being “education.”

    And with a tad of fugue-in-cheek humor in which I came to the realization that “I chose my parents” and that decision was made prior to my actualized physicality. And with this in mind, I never expected to be “writer” of any consequence, and yet, here I am “exclusively” married to a military vets organization “preaching” as a proponent for a prudent Peace. And in the mind of the non-military vet, I can easily be seen as distinguished “bloviator” of some note, given the existing advantage of having a “platform” that is both attractive and viable for message dissemination. Subsequently, “history” is the fulcrum for any ‘vim and vigor’ that is entailed in this overall effort for describing this “history.”

    Regardless of the subject matter that attracts my attention on a daily basis, history mobilizes today’s behavior for public opinion, recognized as the tow scenarios for “behind locked doors” and to the other end of the parameter scale, of what’s permitted for subsistence food internalized as today’s propaganda, or in extremis as “alternate facts.”

    And in all analysis, Common Sense underpins the forefront, even when the viable tangents are taken into consideration, and thusly, the behavior that emanated from the 1960s from California’s university and college systemic, was solidified by President Carter’s election, given that he was both a military vet, and pursued a prudent Peace agenda, when compared critically to those that followed into the Oval Office.

    And in closing, permit me touch or an add-on skosh for the Chicano Movement, and which continues to this day. When one looks to the demographics of Latinos, 50% of all Latinos have a family history in which the Undocumented Immigrant “mom” is crucial to as to be the understood rationale that causes these kids to enlist in today’ military and where accepting the political assault that is equated as second class citizenship, demonstrates that challenging this intellectual laziness must be addressed and where public education failed and which is comparable to an old lady complaining that the cashier at the check-out counter should be speaking “English only,” not in Spanish, as this behavior signifies “patriotism” at its best. The Purple Heart be damned.

    Thus, I end my bloviating for today.


    • thanks, jaango. i’d thought of carter that way, not knowing that his cia had been supporting the overthrow of the sandanistas in nigarauga. from what i just read checking that out, he vacillated a bit in the end, and then: iran contra under reagan. but yes, we felt safer under his rule, didn’t we? but i confess, i was more of a fan of rosalynn, myself.

      we’d hoped that the first winter soldiers testimonies would make a huge difference in how amerikans saw war, but then…we had high hopes for the one for iraq/afghanistan vets similar one.

      i’m not altogether sure where you were heading w/ ‘intellectual laziness’ in your final paragraph, but yes, we are a nation of immigrants, save for the indigenous. those forced here by chattel slavery are a whole ‘nother matter.

      we’ve been discussing the kent state murders on the ferguson activists thread; bruce laid in a dilly of a video i’d never seen before as a direct parallel.

    • Your phrase; …And with a tad of fugue-in-cheek humor…
      is a curious use of the word fugue; please tell me what you mean in this context; I would be most interested.

  6. this dunce cap made in china

    education, thy name is test prep. I tutored a kid recently a bit for his SAT’s. at least the guidebook we were using was honest enough to state strongly that the SAT’s are a joke and it’s a game. (but then why are we playing this game???) as we remember that big gulp of the milk of human kindness all of us have received this mommy’s day, let’s also remember how awful it is to set these kids against each other in these testing regimes. like capitalist economics, education is viewed as a form of warfare. music, e.g., is not gonna help those 5 yr olds compete in the global economy, so it gets the ax.

    i’m sure it was at wsws I read this stat, but fully 50% of global youth age 16-24 are not engaged in any kind of formal schooling and/or working in the “normal” economy. the flower of youth wasted cuz there’s no profit to be made.

    • the strain and competition gets jacked up even more among prep students whose parents enrolled them in learning schools at birth, omg. the sub-elites learn not only to cheat, but how to pad their school resumés with altruistic endeavors w/ an eye toward admission in the ivies, etc.

      well, from what i’ve read, a hella those kids are living with their parental units, so my guess is they’d rather be working or goin’ to school, but can’t afford to.

      by the way, you may have mistakenly put an addendum to this on the open menu. psalms and fathers?

      on edit, dunce cap: at least here when there have been massive budget shortfalls (once cuz the school board bought a bunch of derivatives guaranteed to fail) they fired teachers,, but the high-dollar sports budget was untouched. grrrrr.

  7. V. Arnold,

    As you know “fugue” is a musical approach and which can be “counterpunctual” in note making. And given that I enjoy that my proverbial Argumentation is never challenged via the languages of Yaqui or Apache, I have free rein. And take, for example, the defining ‘legacy’ for Ronald Reagan and George W. Bush. For Reagan, it was the Era of Criminal Stupidity and for Bush, it was the Era of Gross Incompetence. Thus, the jostling or of a jarring rhetorical flourish, and where ‘stretching’ the English language that is consistent with new words and new ideas, always seems appropriate to me.


    • hmmm. i’d assumed you’d meant ‘fugue state’, as in dissociative disorder. but you haven’t characterized the last two D prezes. my thing is that herr T is the logical conclusion they all led us to, most recently Obomba, of course. T’s just the naked face of where we were headed. and don’t get me wrong, it will be ugly as hell unless…dunno how to even finish that. but denying that O gave him a hella lot of alley-oops just don’t set right w/ me.

      the one big exception right now is that he did get the internet designated a ‘common carrier’ or however it goes. on the 18th it may get decided if the public gets screwed by ajit pai.

  8. And in an off-kilter note, should President Trump put an end to the White House ‘s daily press briefings, the major news media outlets including cable operations, will change our nation’s history, in a variety of ways and manners.

    And it’s always easy to mis-remember that Trump is a hellacious political competitor, and his existential approach to “marketing and selling” the Three D’s or for the Denial, Diversion and Deflection, is his stock in trade. Consequently, the internet outlets would have to engage in a subscription race or find a sizable number of wannabe donors, in order to hire its Team of Investigative Reporters. And not easy to do.


  9. v arnold, there aren’t any more reply spaces up yonder. RL is real life. and yes, i’ve heard that expression. ;-) but it’s not so much that i disagree, it’s that we seem to be talking past one another. for instance:

    you offer yourself as an exemplar for self-education on the history of the US; fine, and i laud you. but i ask you to consider that you and thd are the exception, not the rule. when i offer a few reasons why USians seem so stupid, you deflect the argument to home schooling exemplar of doing an awesome job of HS. now you offer that she was single, worked when she wanted, problem solved. now i dunno who kept the kids while he worked, but she may have had a wonderful support system, family or otherwise. around here, many grandparents essentially raise their grandchirren so both parents can work.

    finally you bring in this ringer: ‘I’d sooner do a bad job of teaching than turn my kids (given I’d had any) over to the government, for a school year of bullying and tyrrany, by peers and teachers’ noting how you suffered in school. so the conversation keeps changing, yanno what i mean? how can i agree or disagree w/ you, or on what, is what i’m unclear about.

    bullying in our local schools was epic, esp. by the white jocks. dinnae matter that i brought anti-bullying programs (free awesome kits from canada and elsewhere), the school had a no-bullying program, full stop. turned out most of the admin and board members had been bullied (so they said) and thought it built character, the asshat cretins. but if a kid of color fought back in defense, they were the ones who were…expelled.

    guess i didn’t hate high school so much cuz i went to a semi-private preppie school and got all As so no teachers ever suspected me of pranking them (yeah, juvenile revenge). as a junior and senior i only hadda go to HS half a day, then to the university for half a day. worked for me. but even though i had a very curious nature, and read voraciously, my curiosity was more toward philosophy, psychology, and the beat counter-culture novelists.

  10. Ugh, WD, where to start; I guess I’ll just random reply.
    I hated school after the 5th grade in N.Y. Sixth grade I had a monster for a teacher; he threw a retarded student (should never been in the class) into a bookcase; banged another students head (a friend of mine and a brilliant student) into the wall while chewing him out; threatened me and banged his fist into the wall above my head while screaming at me. I went from almost straight A’s to barely C’s.
    We moved to Oregon and fuck all it was almost as bad.
    My counter to your negative view of HS was a natural response in defense of HS based on my experience, limited yes, but real never the less. And my friend certainly “did not work when she wanted”, but rather worked her ass off on a carefully scheduled arraingement with her clients. She had a reputation as one of the best house cleaners in the area.
    Talking past each other? I do not see that; but then maybe I’m blind to what you see.

    “…you offer yourself as an exemplar for self-education on the history of the US”.
    No, actually I don’t consider myself an exemplar; just much better informed than the average.
    I do not limit my research to just U.S. history, because it’s so entwined with world history, including my present residency. One could say I’m a history dilitant, with added depth for good measure.
    Whew, I hope that covers it well enough; if not, I invite further inquiry…
    Cheers as always

    • talking past each other would include: ‘And my friend certainly “did not work when she wanted”, but rather worked her ass off on a carefully scheduled arraingement with her clients’ after saying that ‘called her own hours’. that’s different?

      anyway, i’d have hated school after all that as well; how horrid it must have been. friends who’d had similar experiences were apt to believe that, like police, some people became teachers to wield authoritarian power over others.

      but no, i’m finished; we just seem to be having ‘a failure to communicate’. cheers back.

      • …on a carefully scheduled arraingement with her clients’ after saying that ‘called her own hours’. that’s different?
        Yes, she didn’t call her own hours; but rather the hours her clients dictated suiting their availability.
        Yes, we do have a failure to communicate on this issue.

        • yes, and excuse me for not making it clear that it was you who’d written this up yonder: “As a side note; that ex-girlfriend was single and worked as well, she cleaned houses and called her own hours.” so yeah, ‘worked when she wanted’ was so dissimilar? anyhoo, i’m done with this weird conversation.

  11. cynicalseeker

    Re: the quality of US public education in the 1970s: my experience attending junior high and high school in the 70s, first in the Chicago area through 9th grade, then in the Florida school system in grades 10-12: I was blessed to have some wonderful teachers who were very subversive by today’s standards. Mrs. Bridge, my ninth grade English teacher, almost singlehandedly turned me around from a little right winger who thought the John Birch Society was cool, into quite the opposite. She taught us about the evils of American Exceptionalism and how people in other countries viewed us, had us read stories by black authors that really drove home the horror of racism. She introduced us to the poem about the creative child who filled the paper with pure yellow because that was the color of the sun only to have the teacher smile condescendingly and ask him why didn’t he draw rocket ships like the other boys.

    I read that poem years later the first time I read John Taylor Gatto’s “An Underground History of American Education” (I love that book but thankfully, perhaps because I went to school in upscale school districts I was not subjected to the degree of indoctrination he talks about, but it was there, definitely).

    Then there was Miss Dunn, my 11th grade history teacher. I excelled in her class, which also involved questioning norms of American Exceptionalism we all received in earlier years. I did well in her class largely because Illinois schools were light years ahead of Florida schools back then, and she thought I was getting bored and recommended me for early admission to college, an opportunity I gladly took to escape the boring town I lived in and my high school sweetheart who I loved but drove me crazy with jealousy. In retrospect this decision probably ruined my life but I was grateful to Miss Dunn and Mrs. Bridge for taking an interest in me and challenging my narrow thinking (the fact that they were young and pretty and I had crushes on them probably had more than a little to do with it). In my experience teachers like them were more the norm than the exception in the 60s and 70s, I was blessed with good teachers, as well as my parents, who encouraged critical thinking and held great disdain for mindlessly following the herd.

    Then came Reaganism and the Great Leap Backwards, which I took very personally. In my memory the seventies were a time of optimism and I continually ask myself if this memory has more to do with the end of the Vietnam War, Watergate, the Church Committee hearings and a feeling that the “good guys” were winning or because I was young, loved, safe and secure and had yet to experience the cruelties of the “real” world.

    • so good to hear that you had some subversive teachers, c seeker, and yes, i remember your having taught you to always question authority. v arnold had mentioned gatto’s book, too.

      unfortunately, that’s all i have time for now, but i may add a bit later, although i’ll likely give precedence to my ‘science’ diary first, as i have a few things to add there. but nice to see you; i’d wondered if you’d been kidnapped by orcs. or alien visitors, which might have been by way of a treat. ;-)

  12. I came across something this morning that may perhaps question a little bit the aspersion apparently implicit (woah, can something be apparently implicit? – well, let it be for now) in the heading – a quote furnished by commenter Eustace de Saint Pierre at an NC thread:

    “…There is a Vasily Grossman quote that always comes into my mind when considering these things. A man who as a journalist followed the Red Army from Stalingrad to the extermination camps, one of which had killed his Mother – all grist to his mill through thousands of interviews with the likes of gas chamber operatives & all other participants in that horror show, to produce his novel ” Life and Fate “. I have to believe that he is right as he has seen hell at first hand.

    “I have seen that it is not man who is impotent in the struggle against evil, but the power of evil that is impotent in the struggle against man. The powerlessness of kindness, of senseless kindness, is the secret of its immortality. It can never by conquered. The more stupid, the more senseless, the more helpless it may seem, the vaster it is. Evil is impotent before it. The prophets, religious teachers, reformers, social and political leaders are impotent before it. This dumb, blind love is man’s meaning. Human history is not the battle of good struggling to overcome evil. It is a battle fought by a great evil, struggling to crush a small kernel of human kindness. But if what is human in human beings has not been destroyed even now, then evil will never conquer.”

    A knowledge of history can perhaps be useful in setting in perspective the daily challenges we face. I liked, however, the emphasis here on what endures, which does endure even in those totally ignorant or wrongfully misled concerning their own history. History and the excellent knowledge of history, might become evil’s weapon to use against the ignorant and to cow them. I could see that happening. It’s all about us – TINA – there is no alternative.

    But there always is.

    • hello stranger; nice to see you. now i’m hesitant to answer, as i may be mistaking your meaning, but let me try. by this: “History and the excellent knowledge of history, might become evil’s weapon to use against the ignorant and to cow them”, if you mean something close to: ‘the victors own the history and can manipulate it any way that serves our rulers, then yes. a good quot,e i think from wm. willers‘ ‘Fabricating the American Worldview’ at CP

      How many lies over the years does it take before a society comes to its senses and realizes that its overriding worldview has been crafted largely by manipulative lies? How many Americans ask themselves what right their country has even to consider “regime change” in sovereign nations no threat to the US, much less carry out military assaults, whether by proxy or candidly with US drones and “boots on the ground”?

      but that was street’s main thrust: the mis-education of amerikan students blinds them to even further inquiry into this nation’s true malfeasance around the globe. thd’s point about the history between north and south korea having been unknown until recently is a good one, but for me, had not mike whitney and b hunted it down, explained it, i for one wouldn’t even have known to look for it, and pretty much kept on believing the false narratives.

      it’s good to read that the new president of south korea (moon jae-in how cool is that name?) means to figure out how to see eye to eye, if not reunite. he may be one of the burning lights of good that your estimable quote speaks of. time will tell, i suppose, but for now, he wants, or wanted, to get the THAADs taken away as too provocative.

      i wish there were more people exhibiting human love an kindness, of course. ;-) MLK had it right in that, didn’t he? as a requirement for the best revolutionary movement?

      • That’s a good interpretation, wendye, thank you. Mine wasn’t going as deep as that, but rather to the numbing effect so many truths enumerated (remembering the crime upon crime we used to have detailed for urgent impeachments of first GWBush, and then Obama whilst still the table was swept clean of any such proceedings and on we came, those horrors still unrequited. . . and so I said TINA there. The quote I copied for me was the still, small voice of humanity from even the ignorant or those with a different world view entirely from our own. The kernel of kindness left after the worst devastation which communities even now are experiencing overseas as their tragedies unfold.

        I like yours better. We don’t deserve to escape what others are enduring, but yes, I like yours better!

        • as ever, upon further musing about vasily grossman’s contentions as to:

          ‘It is a battle fought by a great evil, struggling to crush a small kernel of human kindness’, i’d almost come back to say that i don’t think that it’s some ‘monolithic evil’ as in by the devil’s minions, sauron’s, etc., (kinda kidding) but serial evil deeds and inhumane, life-stealing policies and scientific progress’.. but yes, he’d really said ‘over the course of human history, so my musings weren’t apt. but in the end we’ve been oppressed, and our fellow humans around the globe, also by ‘the banality of evil’, as in anyone can do evil, even and esp. those stars of whom we put our blind trust, which includes the normalization of evil’ if i recall the concept hannah arendt had named.

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