I never heard of Dennis Prager until an article of his popped up in my Facebook feed last week.
He has a lot of opinions and thoughts about schools and the education system. Hey, so do I!
I’m going to reproduce his article from July 2010, found here, and intersperse it with my commentary. This should be FUN!
A Speech Every American High School Principal Should Give
by Dennis Prager
If every school principal gave this speech at the beginning of the next school year, America would be a better place.
Define “better”, since at this point, what with the collapse of capitalism and all, and the fact that you all are over $14 trillion dollars in debt due to, among other things, bailouts to millionaire robber barons and over a decade of illegal overseas wars killing civilians (in violation of international laws), I’m not really sure that placing the burden of “improving America” on a bunch of minors is the best strategy to go about fixing America. My suggestion, start at the top. And I don’t mean POTUS, but it would be a great idea to start there and fan out.
To the students and faculty of our high school:
I am your new principal, and honored to be so. There is no greater calling than to teach young people.
I would like to apprise you of some important changes coming to our school. I am making these changes because I am convinced that most of the ideas that have dominated public education in America have worked against you, against your teachers and against our country.
First, this school will no longer honor race or ethnicity. I could not care less if your racial makeup is black, brown, red, yellow or white. I could not care less if your origins are African, Latin American, Asian or European, or if your ancestors arrived here on the Mayflower or on slave ships.
Okay, so right off he’s established that he’s a fucking moron. Not only does skin colour absolutely matter in the US and in Canada, the very systems and institutions that he would claim “make America great” are founded in, and run by, principles of white supremacy.
If he really wants to not “honor race or ethnicity” I would expect all the white students and teachers, since he’s also addressing faculty, to experience a huge drop in all the preferential treatment they receive. I won’t hold my breath.
Here’s a hint: colour-blindedness is not only NOT the goal of being truly anti-oppressive, it’s the opposite of anti-oppression. Colour matters because white men say it matters. They built it, the rest of us just live in it.
Plus, differences aren’t the problem. How differences are ranked is the problem.
From Audre Lorde, feminist, poet, thinker, visionary: It is not our differences which separate us, but our reluctance to recognize those differences and to deal effectively with the distortions which have resulted from ignoring and misnaming of those differences.
The only identity I care about, the only one this school will recognize, is your individual identity — your character, your scholarship, your humanity. And the only national identity this school will care about is American. This is an American public school, and American public schools were created to make better Americans.
If you wish to affirm an ethnic, racial or religious identity through school, you will have to go elsewhere. We will end all ethnicity-, race- and non-American nationality-based celebrations. They undermine the motto of America, one of its three central values — e pluribus unum, “from many, one.” And this school will be guided by America’s values.
Ah, it wouldn’t be an inspirational American speech without the image of the rugged individual.
Plus, as most of us also expect when doofuses open their yaps, lots of revisionist history is going on, which is to be expected, since colonization and imperialism and genocide and state-sanctioned murder (past and present) is a pesky truth that simply can’t be dealt with by Mr. Thinks-He-Knows-It-All.
As for the saying “from many, one” only Anglos or Anglo-aspiring English speakers qualify. Not only is this NOT “ending all ethnicity”, he’s saying that anyone who doesn’t identify with the white power holders is to blame for their own oppression. What a handy verbal trick!
Sure it’s the “melting pot” image of American imperialism, but he’s also very clearly saying that “American” meaning “white and Anglo” culture is the best.
Dude, you’re a bit late. That ship has sailed and you ain’t on it. America fails at education levels, literacy levels, the percentage of your population that’s incarcerated, the growing gap/chasm between rich and poor, and many more signifiers.
This includes all after-school clubs. I will not authorize clubs that divide students based on any identities. This includes race, language, religion, sexual orientation or whatever else may become in vogue in a society divided by political correctness.
See, this would be cute if it wasn’t laced with such hatred. So identities are reduced to fashion and respectful language. He has not a notion of what it’s like to be on the outside, of needing to be with people who have experienced similar marginalizations, therefore if he has no notion, then it doesn’t exist. Project much?
Also, since you are presumably Christian, it doesn’t occur to you that your day of worship is already a sanctioned day off from work/school. So your “identity” as a Christian is supported by the structure of the society. Try to get Eid or Yom Kippur off as a holy day and get back to me. Psst: that’s why we call it “systemic oppression”.
Your clubs will be based on interests and passions, not blood, ethnic, racial or other physically defined ties. Those clubs just cultivate narcissism — an unhealthy preoccupation with the self — while the purpose of education is to get you to think beyond yourself. So we will have clubs that transport you to the wonders and glories of art, music, astronomy, languages you do not already speak, carpentry and more. If the only extracurricular activities you can imagine being interesting in are those based on ethnic, racial or sexual identity, that means that little outside of yourself really interests you.
Narcissism? Unhealthy preoccupation with self? Really? You think beyond yourself do you? Have you even stepped inside a school since you were a student in one? All America teaches, especially right-wing America, is that you’re the best country on the planet (wrong), everyone in every other country wants to be like Americans (way wrongski) and that everyone else is jealous of the way Americans live (super wrongo). Talk about fucking narcissism, dude!
Sure, I support the education of children/teens in the “wonders of art, music, astronomy, languages you don’t already speak, carpentry” (although that’s a really weird list if you think about it. Why carpentry and not child-rearing? Or lawn-mowing? Or dish-washing?).
It goes without saying that in Dennis’ world the most important art and music and literature, as defined in the US and Canada, is the work of DWGs* and nobody else. Whatevs.
*Dead White Guys
Second, I am uninterested in whether English is your native language. My only interest in terms of language is that you leave this school speaking and writing English as fluently as possible. The English language has united America’s citizens for over 200 years, and it will unite us at this school. It is one of the indispensable reasons this country of immigrants has always come to be one country. And if you leave this school without excellent English language skills, I would be remiss in my duty to ensure that you will be prepared to successfully compete in the American job market. We will learn other languages here — it is deplorable that most Americans only speak English — but if you want classes taught in your native language rather than in English, this is not your school.
Let’s pause and giggle at my favourite line from this section: The English language has united America’s citizens for over 200 years.
Yeah, he’s serious. Yeah, he’s clueless.
English doesn’t unite. Ask any ESL or EFL learner, of any ethnicity. Kids and adults are teased, made fun of, mocked, failed and made to repeat grades, thought to be stupid, denied jobs, denied promotions, denied housing and many other tangible realities because of how they speak English, regardless of their actual competency in speaking, writing, reading English. What’s that called again? Right. Anglo supremacism. Which you, kind sir, completely support. Maybe it’s you who has the comprehension problem.
Third, because I regard learning as a sacred endeavor, everything in this school will reflect learning’s elevated status. This means, among other things, that you and your teachers will dress accordingly. Many people in our society dress more formally for Hollywood events than for church or school. These people have their priorities backward. Therefore, there will be a formal dress code at this school.
Who the hell goes to Hollywood events and also to public school? What the fuck?
Hey, Dennis! Stop watching E! and walk down the halls of an actual school. Talk to students and teachers. And then look at school funding formulas. Just for the hell of it, compare that to how well the military is funded. Look at who gets paid the most. Spoiler alert! It’s the administrators who don’t teach!
Oh and I don’t go to church. Not being a Christian, this is no big deal, to either me or the Christians in my community, who are perfectly nice people. See what I just did?
And see what happens what you assume everyone goes to church? You end up looking like a doofus.
I went to public schools from Kindergarten to Grade 13. There were no dress codes. Uniforms are about appearance, compliance, and obedience. Uniforms train students to accept all authority, and to follow along with the crowd. Even without them, that’s a fairly good description of US citizenry today, and look at the mess you’re in today.
I certainly do NOT want kids and young people to learn obedience and compliance. But then, I’m a wacky left-wing feminist.
Fourth, no obscene language will be tolerated anywhere on this school’s property — whether in class, in the hallways or at athletic events. If you can’t speak without using the f-word, you can’t speak. By obscene language I mean the words banned by the Federal Communications Commission, plus epithets such as “Nigger,” even when used by one black student to address another black, or “bitch,” even when addressed by a girl to a girlfriend. It is my intent that by the time you leave this school, you will be among the few your age to instinctively distinguish between the elevated and the degraded, the holy and the obscene.
Fuck you. Hee hee.
Fifth, we will end all self-esteem programs. In this school, self-esteem will be attained in only one way — the way people attained it until decided otherwise a generation ago — by earning it. One immediate consequence is that there will be one valedictorian, not eight.
Wow, you have to “earn” self-esteem, do you?
You’ve been watching too much Dr. Phil, Dennis. Self-esteem comes from within and needs to be nurtured and fostered by adults/other role models in the lives of children and young people. Especially those children and young people who are told every day by society that they’re not smart, not capable, that they’re weird, fucked up, too dark-skinned, too effeminate, not effeminate enough, too masculine, not masculine enough, don’t speak English with the correct regional accent, or the many mean and hateful ways that kids who don’t fit into your Theodore Cleaver fiction are treated.
I think I know what’s going on. You want to be respected and called “sir” don’t you, Dennis? Hm, that’s a fairly mild kink. You can easily have that, but it’s best that you go to a professional and pay for it. Hee hee.
Sixth, and last, I am reorienting the school toward academics and away from politics and propaganda. No more time will devoted to scaring you about smoking and caffeine, or terrifying you about sexual harassment or global warming. No more semesters will be devoted to condom wearing and teaching you to regard sexual relations as only or primarily a health issue. There will be no more attempts to convince you that you are a victim because you are not white, or not male, or not heterosexual or not Christian. We will have failed if any one of you graduates this school and does not consider him or herself inordinately lucky — to be alive and to be an American.
Noooo, don’t tell kids the facts about smoking! That’s just a left-wing plot!
Sexual harassment? Pshaw! Some feminists made that shit up and are now SCARING nice boys and girls for no reason! Shame on them!
Global warming? Again those damn commie scientists are always trying to scare hard-working Americans into not buying new SUVs.
Condoms? Who the hell needs condoms? Only sluts and players need condoms! It’s not like condoms actually DO anything HELPFUL.
And dude, I never used the word victim, you did. And since I already know you have no fucking clue about systemic inequities, to try to explain to you what white supremacy is, what patriarchy is, what hetereosexism is, or even what secular Christian imperialism is, would be a waste of my time. Needless to say, you’re talking out your ass.
And, my second favourite line of the piece: toward academics and away from politics and propaganda. Riiiiiight. Because the way, for example, American history is taught in the US has nothing to do with propaganda, right? No wayyyyyy!!
Now, please stand and join me in the Pledge of Allegiance to the flag of our country. As many of you do not know the words, your teachers will hand them out to you.
The first time I found out about the Pledge of Allegiance, in terms of what it really is (I learned about it in the Little House on the Prairie books I read as a kid but didn’t comprehend what it was and what it meant), I was pretty shocked with disbelief. What kind of insecure country needs to brainwash their citizens into saying that crap in school that they’re legally required to attend? I mean, seriously.
I think you have a self-esteem problem, America. That’s earned, ya know. *snerk* Oh, and it’s NOT earned by driving your country into debt by insisting on having the most guns, the biggest army, and by killing people in countries that most in your country couldn’t find on a map.
Just so’s ya know.
On that happy note, I’ll end with a classic Life in Hell by Matt Groening.
Bongo the bunny reads his version of the Pledge of Allegiance