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Ira David Socol on Teach for America, KIPP Schools, and Reforming Education

Today we present readers an in-depth interview with Ira David Socol, author of “The Drool Room” and the web site “SpeEdChange.” Our interest in talking with Ira centered upon three critical factors.

First, there is little doubt that Ira is passionate about education and the process of learning. More importantly, that passion is relentlessly focused on creating a learning process that is responsive to the needs of learners.

Second, to be frank, Ira shares some of our views on how best to reform education. He notes that there are a multitude of ways to create positive learning opportunities for students but our current school structures prevent the flexibility necessary to provide alternate paths. Like OpenEducation.net, he is also a strong proponent of the use of technology yet does not buy into the “digital natives” nonsense.

Third and perhaps most importantly, Ira is extremely courageous. He is unwavering in his support for students and is willing to step out on a limb if it means questioning the system. He is one of the rare individuals we have seen who has been willing to speak out about what he sees as fundamental flaws in programs like Teach for America and the KIPP school concept (Knowledge is Power Program).

Ultimately, we believe it is important that everyone involved in education is familiar with his work.

Can you give our readers a brief introduction to the key elements of your personal bio?

I come to the field of education from an interesting direction. I know that most in the field, be they teachers, administrators, teacher education faculty, are there because they liked school, and so they wanted to stay. School worked for them – at least on some significant level – and school made sense to them.

The key part of my bio for this interview is that none of that was true for me. From the beginning I hated school, and struggled with it. I have never seen school as a place for education, but rather as a place of compliance with nonsensical rules which have stopped me from learning.

But luckily I was shown alternatives. Early in my school life I discovered what were then “books on LP” – audio books – and I always preferred listening to reading. I had the good fortune to attend a Neil Postman designed alternative high school led by the best educator I know in America, a teacher named Alan Shapiro, and in that “school without walls” (or grades, time schedules, or requirements) I found the freedom to actually learn. I also saw, at Pratt Institute, that every subject (even concrete engineering) could benefit from flexibility, and project-based learning.

TeachableMoment.org

Mostly, I’ve had the chance to do many things. I’ve designed houses and been a police officer. I’ve worked on newspapers and pulled thousands of miles of network cables. I’ve programmed computers and worked for a homeless support agency. I’ve coached soccer and taught art classes. I’ve seen this very wide variety of humans learn and communicate in a very wide variety of ways. And in seeing this world, I have learned that the rules, the strategies, the technologies, and the methods typically taught in school do not match what actual humans need.

So, to educators, I’m a bundle of contradictions: the book author who seems to argue against books, for example. But outside of school, as we drive down the road listening to our audiobooks, or download our reading to our phones, people do understand what I’m talking about.

Can you talk a little bit about your book, The Drool Room? The visual with the reversed Rs in the title certainly creates a lasting impression. I am also not clear as to what is meant by a “novel in stories?”

I really worried about the reversed Rs. I fought the design at first. “Generic dyslexic humor,” as The Simpsons put it. But it does generate impact, and it tells a story in a very effective shorthand. As someone who does reverse and otherwise twist letters at times, I know the image well. “I have a kid brother, he’s six, he writes just like you.”

The Drool Room is fiction, but, yes, many parts are “autobiographically informed.” I’m not going to say which. It is not a memoir. It has experiences of mine and experiences of others assembled, tracking a – shall we say – “challenging student” through school and through life. There’s a thread – “seeing differently” is a lifespan kind of thing.

It is told as a series of short stories and microfictions which alternate through a non-linear story line. That’s a literary style: Joyce, Dos Passos, Seamus Deane, that I think really works. The straight-line novel, you know, see climax on page 312, doesn’t hold a great deal of interest for me.

Your blog SpeEdChange offers the sub-header, “The future of education for all the different students in democratic societies.” Can you provide greater insight as to what you mean by that sub-heading as well as what tends to be your focus on the site?

Let me take you back to the origins. When I began my graduate degree program many advised me to join a list-serve called “SpEdPro,” for special education academics, and I did. A month later I posted a response to some question, and in my response I suppose I betrayed my postmodern thought patterns. That is, I doubted the idea that quantitative research of groups could “prove” the best solutions for individual students. And I was immediately hammered – just flat out attacked – as if I was threatening the entire structure of society. The battle ranged across almost 100 posts, but I had, essentially, no defenders.

So, I quit that, and created SpeEdChange, a place where I might doubt, and find others who doubt. And where we might “Speed Change in Education,” especially for those labeled as “different” in our societies. It remains significantly a “special needs education” site in some ways – now, I don’t actually believe in special education, because I firmly believe that every student, every human, has “special needs” in some ways and is “gifted” in some ways – but I do believe in protecting our most vulnerable first.

The spirit of the blog lies in a couple of ideas. “Democracy” – not “majority rule” faux democracy, but actual “protection from majority tyranny” democracy, is essential for society and education. If we do not have that, we will never grant our students the right to control their own learning, and thus, we will never allow them to become effective lifespan learners. “Universal Design,” the idea that solutions in the classroom (or workplace) not be “prescribed” as if as cures for pathologies, but be offered freely to all, so that we learn to make effective choices. And “Liberation Technology,” the idea that using tools effectively is how humans free themselves from their individual and group limitations.

From your writings readers can clearly discern your strong opposition to the tenets of the Teach for America program. Can you highlight for our readers your thoughts on TFA?

Teach for America is a “colonial project.” It is a “missionary project.” It begins with the basic premise that the solution for the underclass in America is to make them ‘as much like’ rich white folks as possible. When you listen to the TFA leadership, they don’t really talk about “education,” probably because they don’t really believe in education. They talk about “leadership” instead. If they believed in education they would see education as important on the path to effective teaching, an idea they specifically reject, replacing it with the thought that since TFA corps members represent the elites (or, religiously, the “elect”), all they have to do is “lead” the downtrodden out of poverty.

This is essentially the British Colonial conversion concept. “We’ll fix Nigeria/Ireland/South Africa/India. We’ll just teach them to speak the Queen’s English, give them a Parliament, and make them wear powdered wigs in court. Then they’ll be civilized. And like the British Empire, this strategy is adopted because TFA’s board and supporters have no desire to ever relinquish power to a rising colonial population. If it’s all about “follow the leader,” the leader never changes.

Beyond that, TFA is a “cover up.” Rather than enlist our elite universities in the fight to reallocate resources, or improve democracy, or build equality of opportunity, or even simply to improve teacher pay, support, and status, we use them to offer the fig leaf of charity to deflect any actual movement within society.

And beyond that, TFA is a “good enough for those kids” effort. I say, over and over, that if TFA wants to prove itself, replace the faculties of the schools in Scarsdale, NY or Greenwich, CT, or at Groton and St. Bernard’s, with TFA corps members. And let those teachers – holding their current salaries – go to the TFA placements. If TFA improves the education in those wealthy places, it will have proved itself. If the teachers from those top schools have better impacts than TFA teachers do in the impoverished districts, we’ll know that better teacher training, better teacher pay, and redistributing resources is the way to go.

By most accounts, the TFA program seems to be immensely popular. According to what we have read, the program is turning away large numbers of applicants. In your estimation, why is the TFA program so popular?

Of course it is popular. It is marketed as a great way to build your resume while assuaging liberal guilt at the same time. It offers the perfect entitlement, a job without the need for real commitment or the effort which goes into real training. As banking jobs shrink, this seems the perfect two or three year placeholder.

You also have frequently shared your opposition to the Knowledge is Power Program (the network of free, open-enrollment, college-preparatory public schools, called KIPP). Can you share with readers your position and why you have taken such a stance regarding this program?

LGagnon
Let me put it this way. Let’s go to those “best schools in America” in the wealthiest suburbs of New York, Boston, Chicago, Los Angeles. Why aren’t they run like KIPP Academies? Always ask this when rich people offer “solutions” for poor people which those rich people would never accept for themselves.

Oh yeah, the rich parents want creativity and flexibility and diverse curricula. They want individualized discipline (if they want discipline at all). They’d have very little patience for chanting in classes and being told what to do with their children at home. But, you know, “those people,” they’re not “like us.”

Again, we’re back at the brutally low expectations, and the inherent racism and classism of colonialism. So, sure, convert Scarsdale High into a KIPP Academy, show me how it works there, and then offer it to those “less fortunate.”

Today, everyone is interested in improving education, there just seems to be real disagreement as how to best do so in our country. If you were to advise the incoming Secretary of Education on a couple of must areas to consider, what would be the two aspects of education you would most want to see reformed moving forward?

I’ll start with two words: Technology and Flexibility. We need to rethink the technology of our schools, from the shape of our classrooms to the schedules of our days, weeks, and year, to our text systems. Right now we are stuck in buildings quite literally designed in the 1840s (when chalkboards, desks, chairs, and books printed on rotary presses were all “scientifically” introduced). We are stuck with quasi industrial timing, and the industrial processing notions of “grades” (not marks, but the years in school). Only when we break those bonds, and use the technologies of our time to break through our geographical and knowledge boundaries, can we begin to find the flexibility we need to create education which finally works for more than one third of the population.

That flexibility means not assessing for “expected” (based on group averages) progress. It means teachers having “instructional tolerance” for differences in student learning styles and behaviors. It means project-based, interest-based learning which responds to learner needs. It means Universal Design in both technology and practice so that students learn to access and work with information in the ways most effective for them. It means accepting – finally – that “what you learn” is far more important than doing it in any exactly prescribed way.

That is “the change we need.” If we do not begin there, it is all tinkering around the edges, and honestly, that is worthless.

In your two posts last April on teachers and technology, you clearly took a strong position on the issue of technology in education. Could you highlight for our readers your general view of where technology fits in the 21st century classroom?

I believe that, in many ways, we define our human cultures by our technologies. This is because we are, above all else, tool users. Without tools, humans as we know them could simply not exist. So we say, “The Bronze Age,” “The Iron Age,” “The Stone Age,” now, “The Information Age,” because that is who we are.

Right now our classrooms are based in “Age of Steam” technologies. From the desk, to the time schedule, to the mass-printed ink-on-paper book, to the machine made pens and pencils. It is as if we are running “heritage academies,” producing people ready for the jobs, and the higher learning, of 1890.

That is disastrous on so many levels, not just as job prep. In my PhD program the ink-on-paper book is stunningly rare. Research is on line, communication is on line. I need to know how to Skype or Google Chat with distant colleagues, to glean data from blogs and list-serves around the world. I read many newspapers, but none are on paper. I convert reading which is difficult for me from text-to-speech, and my phone converts voice mails from voice-to-text. In every place I go, if I look around, the communication devices and “learning containers” are different from those we focus on in schools.

More important, technology liberates, it breaks boundaries. You have a non-reader? They can still grab the world of literature, and do it independently. Someone who can’t hold a pen? They can still express themselves to the world, without waiting for a scribe to help. Have a child in a distant rural area? They can access every one of the world’s greatest libraries. Have two communities separated by issues of the past? Join them digitally first, and let them build connections.

More practically, students need to know how to use email, Google, mobile phones, texting, blogs, online newspapers, and how to use them appropriately and effectively simply in order to survive. Don’t buy the “digital natives” nonsense. These are skills like any other skills, and they have to be learned. We are either teaching them, or we are not giving our kids the tools they need.

Schools which fail to embrace these technologies leave their students behind. No, their rich, majority group students will be fine, those technologies (and, say, Blackberry strategies) will be there at home. But the vulnerable students will be left in the dark.

So, any insight as to what is next for education?

Education ‘as we know it’ is about social reproduction. We are trying to produce students who are “just like the teachers.” And there is a sad feedback loop in this, educators see, in the students who succeed in these reproductive schools, people just like themselves.

But we need to be better than that – not because our standardized tests “prove” that only about one third of our students “achieve proficiency” (or ever have, you can look back at the stats at least to 1867) – but because our society needs to change, because it is changing, and schools need to support that.

But it is very hard for teachers to support learning which does not look like their own learning. Very hard. It requires levels of tolerance, of empathy, which are rare. It requires flexibility and a dramatic change in the role of the teacher. And it requires information and communication technologies which can offer pathways that the teacher can not.

It also requires more respect for teachers, more freedom for teachers, and much more support, in terms of ongoing educational opportunities and much better initial teacher training.

It isn’t easy, but I think it is essential.

Flickr photo courtesy of LGagnon.

17 comments

1 Todd Wetzelberger { 12.14.08 at 10:03 pm }

oh boy, how ironic I ended up on this interview from a twitter post. I’m an entrepreneur, real estate investor/ developer and thank god I made it out of school without being too badly damaged.

The linear fact finding/ follow through teachers (in general) give the gold stars indeed to those that are like them. It’s easier that way. To me, it’s plain ignorance.

Kids shouldn’t be learning disabled, teachers should be teaching disabled. (the ones that can’t teach their way out of a bag, but because of tenure you can’t sack them) Tenure is one of the biggest scams perpetuated on our kids. How b.s. is that, that unless you find a teacher in a closet with a donkey, basically you are stuck w/ them for life and can’t get rid of non-performing dead weight. Real world doesn’t work that way.

The real world is going to be a shocker for those kids that “followed all the rules”, etc etc, you know the drill.

My business can’t tolerate incompetence (including my own), but at the same time I’ve put together highly effective teams based on strengths.

When people are shown, and allowed to play to strengths, they naturally thrive, that’s how we’re wired to succeed. Too bad many teachers have been indoctrinated into grossly outdated ways of learning.

I get by, but don’t need to know how to write well since I can hire someone who can. I outsource many things I’m not good at since it’s critical to focus on my strengths for the survival of my business.

I think every teacher should “live a little” and get in the world, and spend some time in a well run for- profit business before they are allowed to shape minds.

The “make your weakness better” approach is terribly flawed. Accentuating your strengths and managing around weaknesses is the formula for accelerated success.

quick example is the outline method or linear way of note taking. totally useless for me. I mind map everything and had I been shown this “alternative’ way of brainstorming, processing, note taking, I can just imagine how much more effectvie I would have been during those 12yrs of getting by.

I remember 3 teachers in 12 years (one was my lacrosse coach) that actually stick out in my mind as great teachers. the rest drifted into obscurity, which tells you how much of an impact they had on my life.

great interview. I’ll pass on and possibly blog about it. minimally I’ll re-tweet.

2 Thomas { 12.14.08 at 10:14 pm }

Thanks Todd for weighing in – Ira makes a number of strong and pertinent points. However, it is great to have folks from outside the field of education offer their thoughts on such matters.
TH

3 Lorri { 12.15.08 at 10:27 am }

I have written about this interview on my Examiner site.
Ira is pretty brave to express his feelings about the program so honestly.
If I even mention anything slightly critical about Teach for America or Michelle Rhee, it evokes some very harsh feelings which probably discourages more vocal debates.
It’s a shame because such debate is vital if we are to improve our schools.

4 D { 12.15.08 at 10:39 pm }

I would recommend Mr. Socol visit an array of KIPP schools before making such a broad criticism. The single-minded focus of KIPP schools is to help get kids into the best high-schools (including elite boarding schools) and colleges it can. It is very non-ideological about how this should be done, and you will find a lot of variation at KIPP schools, including some that are fairly progressive.

If the prevailing model at KIPP is more structured than Mr. Socol would prefer, that might have something to do with the urgent need to help lots of kids catch up who are grade-levels behind coming out of the regular public schools.

5 Ira Socol { 12.15.08 at 11:42 pm }

Just a note: When someone suggests “single-minded focus” for any school, I’ll suggest that there is a problem. Human learning is a diverse an activity for poor children as it is for the wealthy. But a bigger question is this, whether “D” here or those who comment on my blog, the KIPP/TFA defenders are almost always anonymous. I know that refusi ng to identify yourself makes it easier to throw vague accusations around, and it makes it easier to avoid actual conversation, but I am surprised – if TFA/KIPP are such strong ideas why can they only be discussed via press releases?

6 Northerner { 12.17.08 at 3:27 pm }

Let’s go to those “best schools in America” in the wealthiest suburbs of New York, Boston, Chicago, Los Angeles. Why aren’t they run like KIPP Academies? Always ask this when rich people offer “solutions” for poor people which those rich people would never accept for themselves.

That’s a ridiculous analogy. The rich kids arrive at school having had millions more words spoken to them in their lives (see Hart and Risley on this), having had parents or tutors who read to them and taught them innumerable concepts and ideas about the world, having had parents or tutors who inculcated behavioral skills that are essential to success, etc. So of course, those kids are better off in school, and the school can focus on higher-level skills, because the kids already know the lower-level skills. There’s NO reason to say that those kids should be equally content with being taught all the lower-level skills that they already know.

By the same token, poorer kids are less likely to have all of those lower-level skills. So the school can either try to help the poorer kids CATCH UP (which you seem to oppose), or the school can just ignore all of the deficiencies and pretend that a kid who doesn’t know “p” from “g” can leapfrog straight into 9th-grade reading comprehension, or that a kid who has never counted past 10 can jump into the times tables.

Your analogy is something like this: “There are basketball camps out there that are geared towards 12-year-olds who don’t know much about basketball. But oh my, those camps spend all this time on mastering basic skills of dribbling, passing the ball, agility drills, learning the rules of basketball, etc. How insulting and degrading! Let’s go to the NBA camps. Why aren’t they run like beginner’s camps?”

Well, obviously that’s a stupid argument, just like yours. NBA camps aren’t run like beginners’ camps, NOT because the beginners’ camps are doing anything wrong whatsoever, but because the NBA camps have the luxury of a membership that already has all the basic dribbling skills and that can focus on higher-level drills.

7 Caroline { 12.18.08 at 2:04 am }

I write about San Francisco education for http://www.examiner.com and blog on http://www.sfschools.org . I did the original research showing staggering attrition at California’s KIPP schools, which has since been confirmed by at least one major study and much discussed by KIPP. Here’s a link to my initial findings, for anyone interested.

http://www.sfschools.org/2007/02/where-have-all-kippsters-gone.html

8 Ira Socol { 12.19.08 at 5:20 pm }

Ah Northerner, Winston Churchill could not have said it better. “Those” kids don’t come to schools, schools which view knowledge and education in a culturally specific way, with the skills prized by an oppressive elite. The skills they may arrive are not valued. So they are, of course, “deficient.” If you see the education and the world this way – as a colonial project – you will indeed by a KIPP/TFA fan.

Some of us have a different purpose in mind for education. A goal of maximizing human potential, a goal of developing the world in a way which sees everyone as both different and valuable. And we see that every child “arrives” at school “ahead” in some things (might be music, might be alphabetical decoding, might be street survival, might be understanding animals, might be English literature) and “deficient” in others (ability to control one’s own time, ability to judge the flight of kicked soccer ball, ability to communicate effectively and independently with peers).

You want to judge a few of these skills as important – thus labelling most children deficient. I want to judge all these skills as openings or as possible limits, thus finding potential in all children.

Yes, this means that the automatic grants of status now given to rich, white kids might disappear. And yes, your notion guarantees that those “deficient” at age five will never actually be able to catch up.

So you preserve privilege and I might threaten it. If you have status now, I understand why you would want to call me “stupid.”

9 Northerner { 12.21.08 at 4:34 pm }

People like me, we see poor children who don’t know how to read, who can’t put 2 and 2 together, and we say, “Wow, let’s help these kids catch up. At least let’s try to do that, so that these kids have at least a fleeting chance (rather than zero chance) of joining the modern economy when they grow up.”

People like you see those poor kids, and say, “My goodness, who am I to say that reading and math are important, and that illiteracy makes anyone ‘deficient.’ I may know how to read and write, but this poor kid before me is really good at hopping and skipping. That will serve him well in life, and I’ll utter fake words of praise for his illiterate state.”

You’re the one who is most truly dedicated to preserving privilege, whether you know it or not. Under the guise of appreciative (actually, obnoxiously condescending) rhetoric, you are the true oppressor who is working to keep kids from being educated and knowledgeable.

10 T$ { 04.17.09 at 11:19 pm }

I have tried to read through this blog with an open mind, but I can’t help siding with Northerner.

11 JesseAlred { 04.30.09 at 11:38 pm }

The architect of KIPP’s expansion is a Houston businessman and “capitalist intellectual” adjunct professor at (White) Rice University, named Leo Linbeck III. Here are some blog posts he gave through the Belmont Club:

“The Taliban Certainly know, That Obama would sure like to go, So give him a push, Off the ol’ Hindu Kush. They promise to send him some blow?” (dated March 7, 2009). “Its start was a home mortage bubble, which triggered some terrible trouble, Then along came Barack, and the rest of his flock, who turned the whole nation to rubble.” (dated March 9, 2009)
“Your point about needing to repeal the sixteenth amendment is a good one.” (october 27, 2008). “Bush fought a two front war: one front in Iraq; the other in the United States. He won the first and lost the second.” (January 22, 2009). “In my experience, the education reform movement within a city is a tight club. Everyone knows everyone else, and they work closely together.” (october 4, 2008). “But Obama, well he could go places Ayers couldn’t go, win over people Ayers couldn’t work with, champion issues Ayers couldn’t champion. He was a tool.” (october 4, 2008)

12 v { 05.28.09 at 9:55 pm }

ira is too vague in his description to win over even people of good intentions. it took me questioning him a lot over at his blog to get a concrete idea of what he is talking about. he likes to deal in the abstract when most people (including me) need a picture drawn out for them.

13 ProfBill { 06.19.09 at 11:26 am }

So, you spend all this time to debunk TFA. What does that say about you, especially in light of public educators’ grand accomplishments for the underserved? As a minority, I am very encouraged by efforts such as TFA, and can tell that you’re mostly determined to undermine a credible challenge to your status as an educator because the educational industrial complex lags further behind each year and fails to serve children effectively. Disgust.

14 Jean { 07.20.09 at 12:01 am }

A lot of what Ira says resonates with me, but he is a bit more radical than I’m comfortable with. I suspect that he too is prescribing for the entire system what he perceives as having been good for him. That is: He believes (most?) teachers well teach well only students who learn in the same way the teacher learns–and they do certainly start out doing this. And this does have a sort of self-replicating effect on the system as a whole. But much as I too like creativity, flexibility, project-based learning–I seriously doubt that it would work best for everyone any more than the typical linear, direct instruction (teaching as telling) approach works for everyone.

A second point: Northerner and Ira seem to see some kind of exclusive-or, forced choice between valuing all the strengths that students present to us and building on them, and trying to provide all children with certain skills the absence of which are significant barriers to full participation in our complex world. I don’t see that these need necessarily be in opposition. Yes, some choosing and prioritizing has to be done regardign what we have students spend time on–time is limited for all of us–but I think it’s a mistake to think the same choice s should be made for all students everywhere all the time, regardless of circumstances. Or even that the same principles or priorities need to drive all these choices all the time.

15 Mark Adato { 02.05.10 at 4:52 pm }

Ira, your arguments concerning Teach For America lack insight into the program, and your reasoning behind why we shouldn’t call the skills students from challenged schools have “deficient” is hypocritical.

If you would like to decide whether TFA values education or leadership, first simply google “Teach For America” and see what they say on the first page of their website along with their mission statement. As a current teacher in the program, I’m well aware of what TFA offers and delivers. Even though over 60% of corps members stay in education, the goal of the program is to get some of the most promising youth in the country front-line experience in the education system so that they carry the burden of education reform along with them wherever they go. And even if these first and second year teachers aren’t the best out there (ask any teacher what their experience during their first two years was like), they can still have a massive impact on their students during their time in the program. I was just at a memorial service for a corps member who passed before his time at age 25, and after three years of teaching, there were around 1,000 people in attendance to honor him. TFA is a colonialist organization? Colonialists go out and force their beliefs on people in far-away countries. The students TFA serves are already here. If you think that the skills they have are sufficient and should be applauded, show me where in the college and job applications they ask for skills concerning “street survival” and “understanding animals.” Jean is right, a balance should be met between strength-based learning and “white oppressor” skills, but to completely ignore the fact that zip code has more of an impact on a child’s chances of going to college than anything else is absurd.

Technology and flexibility? Why should students be encouraged to learn about technology, Ira? Is it because having skills with technology is necessary for surviving in today’s world? It is, but so is the ability to read and do simple math. You’ve simply chosen a different skill set that is needed in order to succeed in the world. In your ideal world, students are taught how to use Google and email, just like in “TFA land,” students are taught verbal and math skills. You’re just as “oppressing” as we are. The difference is that when you actually visit the schools we serve, it’s difficult to have a conversation about technology when some students don’t have running electricity in their homes, but math and reading can still be taught.

Even if everything I’ve said so far is completely wrong, Teach For America is a program which seeks to get those oppressed back on even grounds with their wealthier counterparts. If those oppressed are happy with the skills they have now, why are we having this conversation? Why is education reform even a subject of debate? Perhaps you don’t agree with all of their tactics, as I don’t, but don’t knock Teach For America for having the courage to try to close the achievement gap.

16 Anonymous { 02.05.10 at 5:33 pm }

this guy is an idiot. Things cannot be holistically good or bad but when you do not acknowledge both sides of an argument you just sound like you are ranting, wanting people to hear, and not doing a rounded due diligence on the issue.
Thanks a lot, Savonorola.

17 Kent Clizbe { 01.03.11 at 2:06 pm }

Ira,

Your views are just a slight (and not new) variation of Marxist anti-reality, anti-humanity pseudo-philosophy.

“Oppressors” and “oppressed,” class struggle, throwing off the shackles put on you by “the man,” follow me to freedom. Read a little history and your rants will be quite familiar.

Read a little more history, and you’ll see that when Ira’s kind are in power they institute much more restrictive, punitive, deadly societies than the “oppressive” societies they overthrow. Just in this little essay, it’s crystal clear who/what he approves of, and who/what he dissapproves of. Think Ira would be tolerant of those on his “dissapprove” list? Not likely. His kind are petty dictators.

If you believe that society does not value your “special qualities” enough, maybe your time would be better spent finding a society that does value you. Why waste your time “changing” a society that has reached the pinnacle of human achievement? America has a balance of the highest levels of justice and achievement–social, technological, economic–as well as opportunity for every citizen. That is, if you are willing to conform to the societal norms. If, however, you expect society to conform to you, it’s very unlikely that you will be able to succeed in America.

But then, where in the world has anyone ever been able to succeed in any given culture by defying the norms of the culture?

If your culture requires you to eat peyote and howl at the moon, you will not likely be successful in your culture if you wear a coat and tie and do a SWOT analysis of the seed corn production business.

Live in the culture, or live in another. Help kids succeed in your chosen culture. When you make kids unhappy with their culture, all you do is create dysfunctional kids. And sooner or later, you destroy the culture of opportunity that all of Americans are fortunate to have available.

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