DONNY LITTLE HANDS THE EIGHTH GRADER

If you ever had the experience of teaching 8th graders, or being an administrator in a junior high or middle school, then you will understand what I am saying. Just having a child in 8th grade does not count. You have to be around bunches of them in a lunchroom, gym class, or auditorium to get the full understanding of what is happening to them.

Since I have been both in different parts of Pennsylvania, I have the privilege of letting you in on these secrets. The first secret is that 8th grade girls are mostly psychotic. Find that hard to believe? Ask any teacher or administrator in that grade and they will affirm what I am saying.

The changes that are happening to them at age 13 or 14 are really beyond their understanding. They are hormone infested packages of energy, restlessness, antagonistic, boy crazy and unpredictable. I may have told you about an 8th grade girl who stuck her tongue into the ear of a malr guidance counselor. It shocked him so, he ran out of the office screaming. By the time 10th or 11th grade rolls around, they drift into a semblance of normality.

The boys, on the other hand, do not follow the girl’s pattern. That part of the brain which organizes their thinking is not yet clicked on.  In fact, they lag about four years behind girls and don’t catch up till they are in their mid 20’s. However, they do have traits of their own.

Most of the time they cannot tell what a future for them will bring. As an experiment, when we were running a prep school scholarship, we asked a group of boys and girls a question, “What will happen to you in the future.” The girls talked about going to college, finding a man to marry, have children, or choose a career. The boys, on the other hand, wondered about what the menu would be at lunch and when would they get their jackets for playing on the school team. I kid you not.

Boys were also argumentative with each other. Their arguments seemed out of tune with the current happenings in their lives. They would argue about whose father had a larger gun than the other. Carol and I call this the “Atom Bomb” argument. For at the end of argument, someone might say, “My dad has an atom bomb.”

They were very self-centered and could not control themselves when it came to criticizing others. When someone was happy about grades or accomplishments in an extra-curricular activity, there was always some put down remark. And yes, they bullied each other verbally and sometimes physically. They picked on people, both boys and girls. Girls might have done it more psychologically, but boys also had their ways.

They would crow about this and that. If they were a bit older or more mature, they would be prideful about some young lady they were squiring and how far they had gotten with her. Their talk may have been tall stories, but some people listened and were impressed. Most were not. I have a feeling that the birds and the bees was not a household discussion in those days.

There were those boys who were asocial and eventually found themselves going to a private prep school or two. They went there for two reasons. The first was that they were not academically able and needed tutoring and individual help. Others left because, if they stayed, they would not have survived the continual haranguing from classmates. This was not part of bullying. These gentlemen were genuinely hated by most of the boys in the class, even those who were normally the victims of bullying.

I often wonder how those boys made out in later life.

 

NOW I’M REALLY SCARED

As a student at the New School for Social Research in New York City in the early 1960’s, I studied with some pretty high powered teachers. The classes were very difficult. The professors had started a graduate faculty when many of them left Germany when Hitler came into power.

They were old time guys (all of them were guys) who brooked no interference from others. Many of them were consultants to the nascent Kennedy administration. They were beyond anything I had ever run across before or since.

One of the courses that I took from one of these people was a study of the history and government of Russia and later the Soviet Union. The readings were mostly difficult for me. I have never been a fan of Marx and Engels. Their basic premises about humanity appeared flawed. Yes, you could argue with the professors, but you could never expect to win.

I did read “State and Revolution,” by Vladimir Ilyich Ulyanov (Lenin). He was a follower of Marx and Engels, but went much further with his philosophy of creating a reason to “deconstruct the state and its apparatus” (my paraphrase).

If that term seems kind of familiar, it should be. Steve Bannon, former everything said that he was a Leninist in an interview in 2013 and that if he were in charge, he would “deconstruct the state.” Guess what, that is exactly what is happening. The individual thing that is going on right now, the Muslim Ban, the elimination of certain governmental procedures by the stroke of an executive pen is absolutely the kind of thing that smacks of deconstructions.

I believe that there are about 540 positions in the executive branch that presidents have the right to fill. They are not to be approved by the senate. I believe at this time 34 have been filled. I know this is early, but that is surely a small number. Does it strike you that if you want to centralize power in the hands of a few, you would not fill those positions.

You would also not allow the cabinet appointees to hire their own staffs without the permission of the President and his immediate consigliaris- Bannon, Miller, Kushner and a few others.

Lenin said in his tome that bureaucracy is the tool of the middle class and the enemy of the proletariat. Wouldn’t that be interesting? You must also understand that the Russian Revolution was started by the Mensheviks (the majority), who were overthrown by the Bolsheviks (the minority). What say you to the fact that the majority of the people who voted in the presidential election were not for the person who won the electoral vote.

The only real example of the Marxist-Leninist state was the Paris Commune of 1871. There the Marxists were in charge and they began to dismantle the former government. They did not last too long to see what would have happened.

One of the bases of the Marx-Engels-Lenin view of government was the “withering away” of the state. They differed with each other, but said that it would take some time to overthrow capitalism and the state at the same time. In actuality, the Soviet Union never followed these strictures. They became a totalitarian society, that they said was classless, but were exactly the opposite. The classes were two- the workers and the elite members of the Communist Party.

I guess that I have a powerful person who agrees with what I just wrote. Dan Schneider, executive director of the American Conservative Union (the organization that set up CPAC conference). Alt-right is ‘garden-variety left-wing fascists’.  “There is a sinister organization that is trying to worm its way into our ranks, and we must not be duped. We must not be deceived. This is serious business.”

Wonder what Steve Bannon thinks of that?

“The rage felt by the president’s critics is real, and understandable, but it also plays into Trump’s broader agenda. His chief strategist Steve Bannon outlined that strategy this week at the Conservative Political Action Conference, describing it as nothing less than the “deconstruction of the administrative state.” Bannon’s comments this week suggest a darker, more nefarious purpose to the nascent Trump administration’s dysfunction. It may be the case that the Trump team is deliberately failing to staff, manage, and provide resources for federal agencies so as to sabotage and slowly dismantle them. To make matters worse, the Trump team might be leveraging the controversies regarding its disastrous national security moves to obscure and conceal that slow and steady demolition of the bureaucracy.”  Phillip Carter of Slate.com

Sound Familiar? Couldn’t resist putting this in.

 

SHOULD WE OR SHOULDN’T WE ?

A situation is arising in education that requires thought and calm discussion. Recently a large crowd appeared at a Washington D.C. elementary school to protest Betsy DeVos appointment as Secretary of Education. As you know, DeVos is not a fan of public schools and has spent millions denigrating public schools in her home state of Michigan. Tales have it that she has never entered a public school. This was the first time that she was going to view a school that was not private or charter. Because she could not get into this mostly African American elementary school by the front door, she had to come in through the back way.

The question arises, shall we stop her philosophically from entering public schools, or shall we try and “educate” her to our democratic form of public schooling?

Early public schooling was fought against by those who supported religious and private education. It was thought that only the wealthy and landed should be able to go to school. The riff raff could not be advantaged by schooling. That thought died out at the beginning of the 20th century when not only were elementary schools mandated, but secondary schools, because skills were needed for the hoi pol-loi to navigate the workplace..

I have no idea if the new Secretary of Education realizes that 85% of all school children in the United States go to public schools. No matter what she does, that number will not change in 4 years or 8 years. If she truly is interested in the welfare of children, as she claims, she will come to understand that public education is her first responsibility.

Interestingly in Michigan, where she comes from, quality pre-school programs have ratcheted up test scores and other indicators of success in school. She might not know of these things. The question is, do we try and educate her, or is she so far into the private, charter school programming, that she will not be interested in public schools.

You must answer that question for yourself. It is not a philosophical query. She may hold the key to our children’s future.

IT’S OUR CIRCUS AND OUR MONKEYS

Not sure if you remember going to the Ringling Brother’s Circus attraction (too bad they are folding their tents). There was one scene where a small car, later a VW comes to center ring and stops. Out come a couple of clowns and then many more clowns come out of the car. It was always a hilarious thing to youngsters.

Well, the scene is still pretty much the same. As more appointees appear to be part of the current administration, more seem like clowns, but not regular clowns more like Pennywise the clown in Stephen King’s “It.” These are not the normal kinds of appointees with some semblance of experience in the area of appointment, but no experience even near the field.

So each appointee goes before a committee and is asked a bunch of embarrassing questions by Democrats and softball questions by Republicans. All of them have passed so far, even one whose qualifications are zero for her new job. It takes a tie breaker by the Vice President to get her approved.

All of these appointees will be approved. Even those with obvious conflicts of interest will sail through. Interesting that many opposed to the President and his administration are touting the high road in condemnation of what they are doing. It does not seem to be working at all.

Those who supported the new administration are not those who respect the high road or even the moderate road. They are happy with the fact that a brash pt. personality and con man could beat down the elite, college going, establishment (including the media).

Giving factual information to condemn what this administration is doing has no effect on the President’s supporters. Hirer is one example. My wife’s cousin, who is a Californian and a virulent supporter of the new administration, has said that there was violence and tumult at the Women’s March in Washington DC. In actuality, there were no arrests made at the march. Responding to him with a fact like that does not affect him at all. We are all saying and quoting fake news.

So, how does one combat the flying monkeys and the Pennywise clowns? There are groups of people who are calling themselves, “Indivisibles.” They are now around the country. They are thoughtful folks with a purpose. They are realistic and determined. They are not “holier than thou,” folks. They will speak out and work at a local level to take back our country. I am impressed with their determination and skill.

Just as an example of how one might publicly oppose the current administration, there is State Senator Daylin Leach in Pennsylvania, who defended a state senator in Texas. The idea that police can confiscate your belongings and make a profit from them before you are adjudged guilty (sometimes called police profiting) was abhorrent to the Texas guy. The police chief in that area asked the new President to see what could do to destroy this man politically.

Daylin Leach asked the President, who said in a tweet, Hey I oppose civil asset forfeiture too! Why don’t you try to destroy my career you fascist, loofa-faced, shit-gibbon!

That’s not what I would say, but it appears to have an effect on someone who has a very thin skin.