Monday, February 23, 2015

Opinion-Making Among the Educated (Updated)

Went over to cover on another unit today, and in the context of discussing probable cause hearings and attorneys, another social worker remarked entirely irrelevantly  that it would be worse in Texas, because they are trying to get the AP History texts changed so that nothing critical is said about America, because they can’t bear to hear it. The psychiatrist added that it was the Bushes that were pushing this, and Neil Bush had benefited from textbook sales in Texas which was a conflict-of-interest. Later in the day the social worker announced, apropos of nothing, that the oil companies were destroying refineries to make the price of gas go back up.

A lot of correction might be offered to this, but I didn’t. This is how we perpetuate our beliefs and attitudes, even the best-educated of us, with fragments of articles, some read long ago, brought out as choruses to sing around the tribe’s campfire every night.

Update:  My supervisor came in and saw a picture of Bush 43 on a computer and said "Shoot him!" She is not a person who would shoot anyone, of course.  But I did immediately consider what would have occurred if anyone had seen a picture of Barack Obama or Hillary Clinton and said the same thing.


Sam L. said...

It is amazing what some people have persuaded themselves to believe.

Texan99 said...

Wait, were these comments made by staff or patients?

Assistant Village Idiot said...

T99 - That's a joke that gets repeated in many contexts at psychiatric hospitals.

It's hard to define paranoia and delusional when such things are believed by the staff. Yet we do know which is which, somehow.

RichardJohnson said...

Not that surprising. Texas strikes fear in the heart of many New Englanders. Perhaps they forgot that Moses Austin was born and raised in Connecticut. You know, the Moses Austin who planned to colonize Austin. His son Stephen carried out his Yankee father's dream to colonize Texas. Austin- a familiar name in Texas, no?

From Wikipedia:
Moses Austin (October 4, 1761 РJune 10, 1821) played a large part in the development of the American lead industry and was the father of Stephen F. Austin, a leading American settler of Texas. After receiving a land grant from the Spanish government in 1820, Moses Austin planned to be the first to establish an English American settlement in Spanish Texas, but died before his dream was realized. His son, Stephen F. Austin, led the colony to a now sovereign Mexico, and in time, the settlers would demand autonomy and win independence from the Mexican ruler Antonio López de Santa Anna thereby establishing the Republic of Texas.
Austin was born October 4, 1761 to Elias Austin and Eunice Phelps Austin in Durham, Connecticut.[1]

In 1784, he moved to Philadelphia to enter the dry goods business with his brother, Stephen.

So if any New Englanders start to froth at the mouth about Texas, remind them that they should blame themselves for Texas, given the role that a Yankee played in founding the Texas colony.

Moses Austin and the Texas colony, Eli Whitney and the cotton gin- looks like New Englanders have a lot to be guilty about. Not to mention all them involved in the slave trade.
Repent, New Englanders.

RichardJohnson said...

it would be worse in Texas, because they are trying to get the AP History texts changed so that nothing critical is said about America, because they can’t bear to hear it.

I don't know anything about textbook controversies in Texas, but I suspect that the situation goes somewhat like this: someone in Texas is trying to diminish the use of Howard Zinn as the revered source for learning about American History.

Speaking of Howard Zinn, Solomonia once had a fascinating story about him.

At that point, I raised my hand and asked him the following question: "Professor Zinn, in May of 1941 your friend, Pete Seeger, produced an album called Songs for John Doe which was a collection of blue collar songs that included one called The Ballad of October 16th. [At the time, Pete Seeger had formed his first commercial band called the Almanac Singers.] That song demonstrated yours and Pete's pacifist philosophy by excoriating Franklin and Eleanor Roosevelt for urging United States entry into World War II to fight Hitler. Shortly after the album's release, you and Pete were desperately trying to retrieve all the copies to take them out of circulation. Exactly what happened between May and June of 1941 to turn you from devoted anti-war activists into sabre-rattling patriots, resulting in your enlisting in the Army Air Force as a bombardier?"

An angry, bemused pall fell over the room. Someone next to me growled, "Who are you?"

A lengthy silence from Professor Zinn finally ended in a muted response: "Well, we've all made mistakes in our lives." He was referring, of course, to his oft-stated repudiation of his role in World War II as a "death dealer" from on high.

I decided to fill in the rest for the stunned audience. "What you mean is that on June 22, 1941, your country was invaded. And by that, I mean the Union of Soviet Socialist Republics. On that date over a million German soldiers poured across the border in what was to prove the largest military aggression in history. Suddenly, Roosevelt became your hero because he was now Stalin's ally. It seems that pacifism has its limits, even for you. And that's how you went from orthodox pacifist to imperialist war monger."

Silence from the Professor. Shouts and threats from the audience. I began to move to the exit. I escaped.

Solomonia is from New England, if I recall correctly.

RichardJohnson said...

You know, the Moses Austin who planned to colonize Austin.
You know, the Moses Austin who planned to colonize Texas.

Assistant Village Idiot said...

Richard, neither of these people are originally from New England.

You seem a bit too ready to be defensive.

Texan99 said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
Texan99 said...

It's interesting that the choices for Texas AP history curricula should come to be perceived as such polar opposites: either the U.S. is completely evil or it is completely virtuous. Wouldn't it be nice if the American experiment in liberty were worth trying, something extraordinary, but we also acknowledged that we're not perfect? Maybe even that the experiment remains valuable even though we never quite get it right, or that lots of people continue to differ over whether liberty is the highest social value. That way we might fill the history curriculum with facts instead of propaganda of either the right or the left.

Sorry about the hackneyed joke.

RichardJohnson said...

Richard, neither of these people are originally from New England.

Whom are you talking about?

RichardJohnson said...

Maybe I came on a little strong. I was thinking what I would have said to those educated yet ignorant social workers you quoted on TX. As a former prog/lib, I am all too aware of the self-righteous strain among progs/libs, and like to puncture their balloons. Granted, your social worker colleagues probably will never read what I wrote, so this is probably a wasted exercise.

Please bear in mind that as the offspring of a mixed North-South marriage who has split my life into the New England half and the TX half, I have been living with the NE/TX-SW comparison in one form or another all my life. Some of my earliest memories have to do with just that comparison. As a result, it wasn't as if what I recently wrote was something that just sprung up in my head.

And yes, I can tell you quite a few stories of New Englanders who have said just as stupid things about TX as your social worker colleagues. And yes, it can work both ways.

At the same time I can tell you of a number of examples that I know of TX-SW gone to NE, or NE gone to TX-SW -not just my relatives. The world is small.

Texan99 said...

But I did enjoy the Zinn story.

Assistant Village Idiot said...

Fair enough response, Mr. Johnson, and I thank you.

My field tends to be mostly liberals of this type. I have some acquaintances and even friends, who are similarly ill-informed and knee-jerk on the conservative side. Just not very many.

It is almost as if people don't want to get to the right answer, but prefer to have a simple algorithm they can apply to any new situation.

Sam L. said...

Update: Perhaps you should have pulled out your phonebook and started searching thru it and saying "Secret Service, Threats on Former Presidents, U.S. Government...AH!, here it is!"