Advertisements

Ahmed’s Clock and Its Ominous Ticking

Those sharp-eyed news aggregators over at the invaluable Instapundit.com web site routinely run stories about public school students victimized by paranoid educators and their ridiculous zero-tolerance policies, but so far the only one that’s been invited to White House is a 14-year-old from Texas named Ahmed Mohamad. Why he should be singled out for such a honor is unclear, but we have our suspicions.
Ahmed’s case is rather typical, after all, except that he was subject to arrest rather than just the suspensions and expulsions and public shaming that other victims of overzealousness have endured. Apparently the lad, an aspiring engineer, was showing off some sort of Rube Goldberg-esque electronic clock that he had been tinkering with, the clock was encased in a brief case and brimming with wires and looked enough like a bomb to a panicked English teacher that the police were called to the scene. The suspicions of the police were further aroused by Ahmed’s “passive aggressive” answers to their questions and his refusal to “offer any explanation about what it was,” and the student thus wound up in police custody on the class A misdemeanor charge of possession of a fake bomb before his release. One can imagine any number of reasons for Ahmed’s recalcitrance, some exculpatory and some damning, but given the facts as they were eventually established it does seem just another one of those numerous cases of students being victimized by paranoid educators and their ridiculous zero-tolerance policies.
It’s hardly the most outrageous case, though. For that title we’d recommend the case of the 7-year-old boy who was suspended from his Baltimore-area elementary school for chewing his toaster pastry into the shape of a gun, or perhaps the fifth-grade student in Milford, Massachusetts, who was kicked out of school because he made his hand into the shape of gun and cocked his thumb and said “bang,” or the high schooler who was arrested for wearing a t-shirt advertising the National Rifle Association. There are similar stories about first-graders being labeled as sexual harassers and subjected to police interrogation because of a pat on a classmate’s buttocks, 6-year-olds being suspended for kissing a girl’s hand, and other outsized responses to what once was considered normal childhood behavior. None of these students declined to explain their behavior, which in any case did not involve anything that could have possibly posed a threat to the safety of their schools, yet none rated an invitation to the White House for their travails.
Which is not all surprising. The current occupant of the White House is unlikely to make any gesture that could be interpreted as chastising the educational establishment’s gun phobias or its aversion to ordinary boyish behavior or its eagerness to censor the Second Amendment. With its Justice Department and Department of Education and the rest of the Democratic Party insisting on a guilty until proved innocent standard for any student accused of sexual impropriety on America’s college campuses, where a supposed “culture of rape” is the result of the left’s 50-year-old sexual revolution, the White House is even less likely to protest a crackdown on butt-patting and hand-kissing on the nation’s elementary school playgrounds. When the victim has a name such as Ahmed Mohamad, however, there’s an irresistible opportunity to blame it on that long-awaited anti-Muslim backlash rather than paranoid educators and their ridiculous zero-tolerance policies.
Ahmed’s name and Muslim faith might well have had something to do with that English teacher’s suspicions, as the student’s father angrily claims, as we can’t claim the White House’s ability to look into the heart of an English teacher in a Texas high school, but at this point we assume that every American public school employee has been properly taught to be exceedingly non-judgmental about Islam and downright paranoid about everything else, and the White House can’t wait around forever for that anti-Muslim backlash to materialize. There is indeed religious intolerance afoot in the land, but better to have a photo-op with some nerdy-looking would-be engineer as a photo op than any of the Jews who are victims of hate crimes at five times the rate of Muslims, or those nuns who are forced to purchase contraceptive coverage to subsidize the sex lives of those colleges girls at the mercy of the “culture of rape” that the sexual revolution wrought, or some protestant bakers who have been fined and forced into re-education camp for declining to bake a cake for a same-sex wedding, or certainly some southern Christian white boy wearing an NRA t-shirt.
Better to send the loud and clear message that henceforth any nerdy-looking people with Arabic names and Muslim faith bringing brief cases full of funny-looking and unexplained wires into public building must be presumed innocent, even if paranoia is the appropriate response to nuns and dangerously-chewed toaster pastries and loaded fingers and schoolyard crushes and everything else. We expect that White House security will continue to take a more suspicious approach to their job, based on its recent paranoid reaction to an unattended coffee cup, and we suppose that is a good thing.

— Bud Norman

Advertisements

Retreat from the Commons

President Barack Obama dropped by Georgetown University for the Catholic-Evangelical Leadership Summit on Tuesday, and it’s remarkable how much idiocy, hypocrisy, and truly frightening authoritarianism he could pack into a few briefs remarks.
The topic was poverty, which Obama is very much against, and he endeavored to explain why he hasn’t yet gotten rid of it. As it turns out it’s everybody else’s fault, especially people who belong to health clubs and send their children to private schools, and of course Fox News. With a few gazillion extra dollars at his disposal Obama could easily eliminate poverty, you see, but between the influence of those health club members and private school parents and Fox News the likes of House Speaker John Boehner and Sen. Mitch McConnell have become too stingy and mean-hearted to authorize the spending. “We shouldn’t pretend that we have been making those same investments, we haven’t been,” Obama said, adding ominously that “There’s been a very specific ideological push not to make those investments.”
As a graduate of Honolulu’s swankiest prep school and a couple of Ivy League institutions, who sends his own children to Washington’s swankiest prep school and does his girlish work-out routine in the very private gymnasium at the White House, Obama is perfectly positioned to see that “Part of what’s happened is, is that elites in a very mobile, globalized world are able to live together, apart from folks who are not as wealthy, and so they feel less of a commitment to making those investments.” We thought he might have been talking about the “folks” he runs into during his frequent vacations on Martha’s Vineyard, but so far as we can tell they all have good enough tax accountants that they can afford to Democrat, and there doesn’t seem to be nearly enough of them to comprise a significant voting bloc, so apparently such insidious affluence has trickled down to such middle class indulgences as health club memberships and parochial schools. “Those who are doing better and better, more skilled, more educated, luckier, having greater advantages, are withdrawing from the commons,” Obama explained. “Kids start going to private schools, kids start working out at private clubs instead of the public parks, an anti-government ideology then disinvests from those common goods and those things that draw us together.”
All of which is hooey. Those parents who send their children to private schools continue to pay the local property taxes and federal income taxes that are providing record amounts of spending on public education, and in our experience they’re as keen as anybody to get a greater return on their investment, and they even support charters schools and voucher programs and the other necessary reforms that Obama and his friends in the teachers’ unions are blocking. Those who pay for health club memberships continue to pitch in on the parks, even if the parks are getting more dangerous in this Obama age of policing, and we suspect that most of them are only anti-government to the extent that they’d like to be able to pump some iron or ride those silly exercise bikes or indulge in some other sort of self-improvement nonsense that isn’t available at the local playground. If such selfishness has engendered an anti-government ideology, it is only to the extent that most people still want to retain some private space of freedom, and it doesn’t seem to have slowed the seemingly inexorable pace of public spending.
There’s still Fox News, though, and it seems to have brainwashed an entire nation into believing that Obama shouldn’t be able to spend those extra gazillions of dollars. Noting with characteristic Alinsky-ite cynicism that politics is a matter of who the middle class can be made to blame for its troubles, Obama went on to say that “If you’re struggling — if you’re working but don’t seem to be getting ahead, and over the last 40 years sadly, I think there’s been an effort to either make folks mad at folks at the top or to be mad at folks at the bottom, and I think the effort to suggest that the poor are sponges, leeches, don’t want to work, are lazy, are undeserving got traction. And look, it’s still being propagated. I mean, I have to say that if you watch Fox News on a regular basis, it is a constant menu. They will find folks who make me mad. I don’t know where they find them. They’re all like, ‘I don’t want to work, I just want a free Obamaphone,’ or whatever.” We mean, this is supposed to be like the greatest orator in history or whatever, but we find it unconvincing nonetheless.
Our meager entertainment budget doesn’t cover cable, so we were unaware that Fox News was now broadcasting a “constant menu” of Ebenezer Scrooge bah-humbugging about are there no prisons or workhouses, but we get out and about often enough that we don’t doubt they have any trouble finding enough “folks” who don’t want to work and just want a free Obamaphone to fill countless hours of programming. They could no doubt find some more sympathetic poor people to interview, although all the other media seem to have beat well-covered, but being so incorrigibly conservative they’d probably take note of the economic sluggishness and increased competition from illegal immigration and growing tax burdens that have occurred during the Obama years. Such dissent is preventing Obama from eliminating poverty, so he recommends that “We’re going to have change how the media reports on these issues.” That pesky First Amendment will no doubt complicate his efforts, although it isn’t proving much of an impediment these days, and the public’s preference for news that is corroborated by the reality they encounter while they’re out and about will also make the likes of Fox News reluctant to change its honest if poverty-inducing habits, but governments have managed to deal with this in places like Russia and Venezuela so surely America is up to the challenge.
If the government were make the common spaces more appealing and leave plenty of room for private space, and spend its educational dollars as wisely as the countries producing better students at a lower cost, and approach the problem of poverty with a realistic understanding about the various causes of the problem and to what extent the debilitating dependence that even the most well-intentioned programs create is one of them, we’re certain there would be less of that anti-government ideology going on out there. Easier to force the public into the commons and read them the latest government pronouncements, though, and the ones who have been properly educated in the public schools won’t notice the difference.

— Bud Norman

Mom and Inequality

Sunday is Mother’s Day, a yearly chance to reflect on all the bedtime stories dear old Mom told and all the other loving things she did to create America’s appalling levels of income inequality. That’s the view of one British academic, at least, and it seems the illogical conclusion of the entire egalitarian left’s line of reasoning.
The British academic is Adam Swift, a professor of politics and international studies at England’s University of Warwick, who told an Australian radio interviewer that “The evidence shows that the difference between those who get bedtime stories and those who don’t — the difference in their life chances — is greater than the difference between those who get private schooling and those who don’t.” The good professor doesn’t therefore condemn bedtime stories, which he acknowledges are useful in developing family bonds that he considers socially beneficial, but he adds that “I don’t think parents reading their children bedtime stories should constantly have in their minds the way they are unfairly disadvantaging other people’s children, but I think they should have that thought occasionally.” He’s more adamant about banning private schooling, which he does not find useful in fostering those family bonds that he generously finds some social benefit to having, and we infer that he would also ban anything else a loving mother might do to give her child an advantage in life which does not serve some broader public utility that he can readily identify.
Something about the professor’s last name and logic reminded us of Jonathan Swift’s famous essay on “A Modest Proposal for Preventing the Children of Poor People From Being a Burthen to Their Parents or Country, and for Making Them Beneficial to the Publick,” in which he jocularly advocated that the impoverished Irish of the early 1700’s sell their children as food, but apparently the more recent Swift intended his remarks in earnest rather than as satire. We’ve confirmed this from several seemingly reliable sources, including a unsettlingly sympathetic account of the interview on the “Philosopher’s Zone” of the Australian Broadcast Company’s web site, and find it all too believable that Swift should hold such outrageous views. The part about banning or stigmatizing private education is by now a common refrain on the American left, which regards even such half-assed educational reforms as charter schools  as racist, and of course they’re downright apoplectic about those loving mothers who are providing first-rate educations to their children at home, where they’re getting God only knows what sort of idiosyncratic and officially unapproved ideas in the poor little dear’s heads, of course the left is equally adamant that inheritance taxes should prevent a mother from passing along any money or other property to a child or a grandchild, and a similar worry that any one child might turn out to be better or in any other respect different from another child seems to inform a whole host of other issues.
Swift and his fellow egalitarians are obviously quite right that not all mothers are created equal and their disparate motherhoods create unequal life chances for their offspring. Our own mother was a most excellent bedtime story-reader, and made sure that a memorization of the alphabet and a recognition of its symbols and an extensive vocabulary accompanied us to our very first day of school, and sent us off to school on time each day in clean clothes with a bellyful of healthful food, and took us to symphony concerts and art museums and historical sites, and inculcated a love of reading and learning ,and gave us a few necessary swats on the head whenever we’d improperly conjugate a verb, and she shared with us a sense of right and wrong grounded in the ancient faith of our ancestors, and although it hasn’t resulted in any noticeable income equality that we can brag about, which it probably would have if we’d more diligently followed her advice, we cannot deny that it has significantly increased our life chances in other important ways. We still have the love of reading and learning about music and art and history, the faith of our ancestors grows more important to us with each passing day, we’ve written a couple of novels, and we don’t say anything about how  we seen something, as so many people do around here, so we frankly if snobbishly assess that in many ways we are a lot better off than many other mothers’ kids as a result.
We hope that Mom doesn’t feel the least bit guilty about it, though, and we want her to know that we don’t hold her at all responsible for how some of the dullards that we sat with in public school turned out.. Knowing her to be an old-fashioned Okie rather than an up-to-date British academic, however, we trust she has already come to the common sense conclusion that the problem driving all that inequality is not the mothers who read bedtime stories to their children but the ones who don’t. In some elastic senses of the term “equality” can be an admirable goal, we suppose, no matter how unrealistic it might be by any definition, but it’s a most dangerously anti-liberty concept when it means dragging down the best rather than lifting up the worst. Nor can we see how the illogical conclusion of liberal egalitarianism serves any public good.
We’re friends with a fine young sixth-grader whose mother and father are sacrificing to send him to one of those private schools, despite the lack of any apparent racism or class antagonisms on their part, and he was read bedtime stories to boot, and he’s coming along so well that we now expect him to come up with some idiosyncratic and officially unapproved idea that will someday be of great benefit even to the public-schooled dullards with the unlettered mothers. We’d like that that our own idiosyncratic and officially unapproved ideas, so carefully typed out according to the standard English that our mother would smack us for violating, might yet also provide some social benefit that a British academic can’t readily identify. We’d like to think that all the mothers who have read to their children at bedtime and provided any other advantage they could to improve a young  life’s chances have made the world a far better place.
We’d also like to wish our Mom, and all those other mothers who read bedtime stories to their children, a most happy Mother’s Day.

— Bud Norman