The Conscience of a (Real) Conservative

Erasmus writes In Praise of Folly

I am a conservative. My values are of a bygone era that we will perhaps never see again.

There was an era when, even if you did not support the President of the United States, you still accepted him as your president. I do not support President Obama. At the same time, I fully recognize that he is an American citizen and, as such, the rightful resident of the White House for better or worse. I am a conservative, not a Birther.

Political office was once seen as a public service. George Washington retired twice, first as general, then as president, because he believed his duty to his country had been served. He did not seek to aggrandize himself or his wallet in the private sector after he left office. There was no Halliburton to offer him a consulting job. I do not vote for the two parties because their ranks are filled with social-climbers, profiteers and shysters on the lookout for their next million.

The Founding Fathers never heard of corporations. They wrote the Constitution in an age when there were no other institutions large enough to compete with the authority of a vigorous federal government. Now we have corporations whose budgets, organizational skill and even coercive power rival that of Washington, D.C. Our federal government has yet to reckon with these upstarts, which is why the constitution needs an amendment that would limit their influence.

Once these corporations became a fixture in society, there was at least a semblance of loyalty to the people that worked for them. You might start at the bottom but, through sheer pluck, could work your way up the ladder. That loyalty would be repaid with Americans dedicating their entire lives to the corporation that sustained them. Their golden years would be secure through retirement plans and health packages, a final recognition that this person revolved their entire life, their entire sense of self, around one company.

But today, workers are berated as spoiled and lazy for expecting these things. Instead of loyalty, Americans now expect transience. They have seen their jobs move overseas or have been forced to take drastic cuts to their compensation under threat of moving their jobs overseas. As a replacement, we have the Walmart position in which people work long hours for the privilege of being perpetually poor. There is no retirement, only an interminable series of low-wage jobs until the end of life. The cold grave that offers respite is out of the price range of most families. Not even a comfortable death is assured.

True conservatives want these things back. If corporations are unwilling to take care of the people that slave for them, then the government must fill the void. This is not radical socialism. This is radical Americanism.

As a teacher, I believe in the quaint idea that students should learn something. My job is not to prepare kids for the 21st century. I do not even know what that means. Instead, students need the moral compass, the range of thought and the sheer knowledge to be able to create the 21st century themselves. This will not happen by making children tech savvy, or having them sit through hours of exams or teaching them that the only things worth knowing are the things that will make them a million dollars. As a conservative, I believe the teacher’s job is to transmit eternal values and challenge children to make those values better.

I do not think having children sit in groups so they can “reflect” is an exercise in democracy. I do not believe that giving children baby work under the guise of them being “visual” or “experiential” learners is sound “pedagogy”. I do not believe that nearly half the children in the United States have a “learning disability” and I certainly do not believe that shoving happy, sleepy or peppy pills down their throats will overcome these fictional disabilities. I think all of these things are labels that have been conjured up by an educational/psychological/pharmaceutical complex that has built an entire brand around “saving” children.

I am a teacher. There are things that I know that my students do not know. There is an entire world that they are too young to understand. My job is to help them understand it. This responsibility is too important to be abdicated to educational “experts” and Big Pharma, who would not be able to understand children if they were born with manuals. My teaching is informed by what my students tell me about themselves day in and day out over several years and decades. There is no substitute, no fast track, no magic recipe for being able to reach a child. I am a conservative. I still believe that, in order to know something, one must know it through extensive experience, whether it is a child or an academic subject. There is no way to deskill the teaching profession without utterly destroying it.

Yet, that does not stop haughty reformers from proclaiming that they know what is good for children. They think teaching is easy enough to be as computerized as ringing up an order at McDonald’s. That is what online learning is about. That is what the Khan Academy is about. None of the people that have birthed these supposed innovations were ever educators. I am a conservative. As such, I believe someone has to be knowledgeable about something before suggesting ways it can be improved upon.

I do not believe a teacher can be pixelated. Pixels cannot tell when a child has not eaten breakfast this morning or if a child had to pass through gang territory to get to school or if poverty has left a child with no home to speak of. Pixels are indifferent to children. Only in a radicalized age would people believe that it is acceptable for children, especially poor children, to have “teachers” that are totally indifferent to their humanity. We live in an age where the term humanistic education is unintelligible. There is nothing human or educational in what self-styled education reformers want.

Humanistic education is one of the most conservative things one can ever stand for. It is what Socrates, Jesus and Erasmus all dedicated their lives to. How many Khan Academy videos did their students sit through? How many smart board lessons did Socrates give to Plato? How many happy pills did the apostles take before they were able to sit through the Sermon on the Mount? What standardized exam was Erasmus ever evaluated on? I am a conservative. As such, I feel that each new “advance” for education reform is another way to remove children form their own humanity.

Inhumanity has been the guiding ethos of what has been deemed “progress” over the past 35 years. Politicians serve private interests, no longer the public good. Corporations treat the people who work for them like disposable garbage to be tossed away when used up, instead of human beings entitled to a lifetime of dignity. Education reforms aim to prepare children for this new age. Children become objects through constant testing, labeling and diagnosing. They become guinea pigs through constant prescriptions of new medicines. They become invisible in the virtual classroom and to their virtual teacher.

This is a new age of radicalism and revolution perpetrated by people in power. The true conservatives are the ones who refuse to give themselves over to the demands of this new age.

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11 responses to “The Conscience of a (Real) Conservative

  1. You know with some, okay, a lot of what you wrote I found myself nodding in agreement… and I consider myself a real Liberal. Maybe you and I are simply real Americans who see some things in different lights but agree on many more things.

    • I think that is true. The divisions between left/right that fill our political discourse are meant to divide people. Considering that there is not a dime’s worth of difference between both major parties, I think it no longer makes sense for regular Americans to identify themselves in either/or terms. It is a choice between standing with leaders who do the bidding of their corporate masters and standing with the American people.

      I am interested to hear what you consider a Liberal. I fear that the irony of my post did not properly come through (4am writing). I’m actually a die-hard socialist.

      • It could be I read it pre-coffee and only replied later. Here I thought I had found a rational conservative…the hunt continues. If my definition of liberal could be distilled in a small reply: Bernie Sanders is my hero.

      • Bernie Sanders is my hero as well… Sorry to disappoint. I am still chasing down the Bigfoot of the rational conservative myself.

  2. How interesting that the conservatives like Santorum — for all the irony in it — would dismantle NCLB and RTTT because they want the feds out of control of ed. So many of the ed deformers are Dems or so-called liberals viewing teacher unions as the enemy. If you look through the lens of education only, the choice between Obama and the other side is either no choice or a worse choice. Give the schools to the neighborhoods. It will be rough but monitor the heck out of them for political crap. Common Core is total control.

    • It is an indication of how far we have fallen as a country when Democrats declare all-out war against unions. Obama, Cuomo, even Bloomberg pre-9/11 are all Democrats. It explains why they have been so successful. Republicans who bash unions are met with stiff resistance (Scott Walker) but Dems who bash unions are seen as trustworthy and are allowed all types of latitude. It was the same reason why Nixon was able to make peace with China. Being an anti-communist hard-liner, all the other Cold Warriors trusted him to not sell out their interests to Chairman Mao and Zhou Enlai.

      Common Core is total control and that control has a corporate face. The divisions between the parties are false. There is only one political party and it is the corporate party.

  3. “Humanistic education is one of the most conservative things one can ever stand for” is one of the loveliest sentences I’ve read in a long time.

  4. “rationalconservative” was already taken….

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