On Saturday, August 20th (notably, the birthday of Dimebag Darrell of Pantera fame... inarguably the greatest guitarist and band of all time, but I digress), Walter Hudson and I did a virtual town hall style debate where he and I discussed the matter of a book in St. Michael's 9th grade English curriculum that has drawn some criticism as to whether or not it is appropriate reading material for ears of that age. Unfortunately only one soul was brave enough to enter the lion's den and engage in any type of debate, arguing (I'm assuming) for the side of keeping the book in the class's mandatory reading. And I must say, I do applaud her. She was incredibly respectful and I believe I basically understood where she was coming from. What I am a little disappointed in is how the anonymity of the keyboard firewall (even if your name and face are attached to a profile) seems to take away from good, solid, respectful discussions. Before she put her face on the screen of those household's whose computer's were tuned in, the comments were snarkish and condescending. Enter face to face chat and the tone came down. Bravo to her. But the comments returned to snark after she was done looking into our eyeballs, in the form of Facebook comments again. And thus begins my thoughts on our whole discussion a week removed.
There is a great article in The Atlantic, of all places, by a man named Johnathan Haidt titled, Why the Last 10 Years of American Life Has Been Uniquely Stupid. Its first two paragraphs give you an idea of the insight he has in writing this article, and as anyone who knows me is well aware, this is coming from someone who is not religious....
What would it have been like to live in Babel in the days after its destruction? In the Book of Genesis, we are told that the descendants of Noah built a great city in the land of Shinar. They built a tower “with its top in the heavens” to “make a name” for themselves. God was offended by the hubris of humanity and said:
Look, they are one people, and they have all one language; and this is only the beginning of what they will do; nothing that they propose to do will now be impossible for them. Come, let us go down, and confuse their language there, so that they will not understand one another’s speech.
I strongly encourage you to read the article but essentially the writer, Mr. Haidt, boiled down our insanity to when Facebook added the "share" feature and twitter added the "retweet." Everyone became a glutton for viral success with the next addictive post to be seen by the masses and we sold our souls for a chance to be social media famous, quite literally stopping at nothing sometimes for that opportunity, no matter how depraved or illegal or immoral. We then collectively lost our minds.
This is where we are today. Social media has destroyed certain aspects of civilization and is working on completely destroying it all. We have lost the ability to communicate and understand each other via Facebook and Twitter posts and comments, hiding behind the semi anonymous keyboard and screen, until someone has the stones to speak into the camera where we all can see each other. Saturday was a perfect example of that and also a perfect example of why Walter's idea of continuing the town hall style conversations is a perfect idea by a great candidate for State Rep in the St Michael/Alberville area of District 30A. If it sounds like I'm harping on our one guest that day, I am not trying to. I have way more respect for her joining us than I do condemnation for her comments on the live feed while he and I chatted because we've all done it. Every one of us (ok, 99%) has taken the low road when debating or arguing or screaming through fingers at someone by a keyboard. I believe Walter's plan is to continue those live chats together and I'd imagine more town hall style interactions will be ahead. Because it is what we need to save civilization - human interaction... even if behind computers, at least both sides get humanized when looking into each other's face and conversing. And if we don't do something real soon, it's all coming down.
As for the book, i.e. the subject matter that gave us 2 hours of real life discussion, the common threads that kept popping up as points for it's retention in the curriculum were basically that it has won awards and was a New York Times bestseller. I would like to point out my, "meh"-ness as far as those two arguments go. Let us first start with the awards.
Look at what award ceremonies have become. The Oscars have always been the standard bearer for movies, but have now been basically deemed illegitimate in their past dealings because of, well, pick any outrage of today’s Left. Ironically, Hollywood is filled with elite white liberals in control of most everything and have been for a long time. They are also the ones on the board for the Award who have been deciding the winners for decades. The solution? To boil everything down to race and sex, thus eliminating possible females that may have won an award under “best female ______,” so to “gender neutralize” everything under the sun. Now certain people of color are picked as contenders for awards based on their skin instead of acting chops, (there must be this many nominations of people of color) thus somewhat de-legitimizing the award insofar that it is not as much about merit or ability. We must have more women and people of color represented! So we will deem people worthy based on undercarriage and skin tone! Problem solved! What a joke. Remember, white Hollywood liberals have been in control. White Hollywood liberals have excluded women and people of color. And now, White Hollywood liberals are here to save people of color and women from a problem they have created.
The 2009 Nobel Peace prize was widely mocked on both sides of the isle. Nominations for the prize were closed 11 days after Obama took office. Without even a full year as President, he was given one of the most distinguished and important awards in the world. The New York Times gave a barely supportive “attaboy” saying the prize was “a (barely) implicit condemnation of Mr. Bush’s presidency.” The Washington Post’s news analyst Dan Balz said, “…..a belief that the award was premature, a disservice and a potential liability.” An editorial by Wa Po lamented, “it’s an odd Nobel Peace Prize that almost makes you embarrassed for the honoree” comparing the Committee’s statement that “Obama had “created a new climate in international politics” to a recent satirical television skit. A Los Angeles Times editorial seethed that the Committee “didn’t just embarrass Obama, it diminished the credibility of the prize itself.” And finally, Thomas L. Friedman of the New York Times said, “it dismays me that the most important prize in the world has been devalued in this way.”
So Speak won awards… awards can be an utter joke. I would think that literary awards would tend to be more valid and merit based, however, please show me the equal number of conservative writers that have won the same award that Speak did over the years. We’re all about equal representation correct? Every race, gender, etc must be represented in correct proportion to their numbers in society. Half the country is center right and further. Where are the same awards given to Thomas Sowell, Shelby Steele, Eli Steele, Jordan Peterson, Jack Carr, Ben Shapiro, Lis Wiehl, Ayn Rand, Allen Drury, George Orwell, Jane Austen, Wililam F Buckley Jr…. My point is, a book can win all the awards possible but they can be nothing more than knowing the right people or spouting the correct phrases, ideologies or narratives for the panel of judges to clap like seals for a dead fish from a bucket.
“It’s a New York Times bestseller!” Let me tell you about another NYTs bestseller. I Hope They Serve Beer in Hell, by Tucker Max. That book made the bestsellers list from 2006-2011 and has over a million copies in circulation world wide, selling 400,000 in 2009 alone. It was also turned into a movie, like Speak. And like Speak, it depicts some pretty graphic, sexual acts. You could say that it also serves as a character builder and a lesson of how NOT to live one’s life. Tucker Max freely admitting today that he was a very troubled college kid with pretty deep traumas that eventually needed psychotherapy. He is currently married with at least one daughter the last I checked. Talk about an eventual, interesting conversation that will take place between father and daughter about the completely debauched, destructive, unsafe, exploitative, and misogynistic life he lead for many years. I will also add that he is probably one of the best non-fiction comedy writers I’ve ever come across. He is an absolute genius at making you laugh through his terribly inappropriate stories. Should his book be anywhere near high school curriculum or even a high school library? Absolutely not.
I could even make the case that American Psycho is more deserving of the classroom reading list than Speak. Bret Easton Ellis IS a literary master, especially in this book. American Psycho also makes Speak look like Wild Kratts or Winne the Pooh, if graphic shock is what we’re going for – which I have to believe is partly the draw of Speak in the school system by progressive teachers who think that is what’s needed to grab a high schooler’s attention. Well, American Psycho says to Speak, “hold not just one beer, but 20.” Beyond Ellis’s character of Patrick Bateman and his truly gruesome, horrifying, psychotic murdering and raping, there lies the commentary of the completely vapid, soulless, narcissistic culture of the young 80s Wall Street crowd (which is eerily similar to the current social media influencers and everyday teenager hoard of today). No one actually knows anyone, which is why everyone is always mistaken for someone else. After Bateman murders a cohort, nothing more than a passing question of, “where has _________ been,” and the young VP investors carry on with their lunch time mimosas never thinking again about someone no one has seen for a week. Bateman exists in his life as the son of a Wall Street Investment firm owner by day and serial killer by night seamlessly because no one truly cares about anything other than their designer belongings, which restaurant their reservations are at that night and quality of their business card (everyone has to remember that scene from the movie).
If American Psycho could quite possibly be a more important commentary on society than Speak, than I fail to see how Speak is really that necessary for required reading… because in no sane person’s mind should American Psycho be anywhere near a high school reading list. And consider that Bret Easton Ellis is a gay man, giving him one up on the intersectionality diagram compared to Laurie Halse Anderson who is a white woman. At least he may have been at one point. To be honest, now that I think about it, I have no idea who tops the totem pole anymore for victim notches on their belt.
“But diversity of thought!?” What thought diversity in high school includes 14 and 15 year olds reading about a girl getting raped? The diversity of rape? “But some girls have gone through this!” Yes, and reliving it in a classroom amongst peers at the age of embarrassing, awkwardness has no place in the rational world. That is for a therapist, a professional who deals in sexual abuse and trauma. “But the teachers choosing these books have Master’s degrees.” Yes, and the college campus is a growing cesspool of completely inadequate diversity of thought. If you don’t toe the line of monolithic ideology coming from professors, you stand the risk of being ostracized by classmates and teachers during your tenure pursing a graduate degree. These are the ones deciding curriculum... 6 years on a campus void of basically any push back to the contrary of far left progressivism. That says absolutely nothing for the validity of today’s teachers deciding what a 9th grader reads. These are the same people that want, The Great Gatsby, To Kill a Mockingbird, Catcher in the Rye, Tom Sawyer/Huck Finn off the reading list because they were written by old white men. Until far left, white teachers start voluntarily stepping down and demanding that their positions be given to less fortunate teachers of color, I will not accept the argument that because they have a Master’s degree, they are credible in deciding a book portraying the rape of a young teen girl necessary reading and good for their minds. If they start relinquishing their teaching positions to those they say aren’t as fortunate as them, I will then at least concede that they are putting their money where their mouth is. But we all know they won’t.
Research any world data on reading and writing scores by country. The US is not near the top. It’s anywhere from 8th to 12th or even 15th by the numerous different data compiled by various research companies and governments. Our current public school system is focused on some of the most asinine, backward and regressive subject matter that it should surprise no one. That the US is not near the top in anything education compared to similarly industrialized countries is deserving. We are eating ourselves from the inside out with division and claims that America is no good for anything while our adversaries look in with glee. Maybe we should go back to being the best and smartest instead of teaching victimhood and that a story about a young teen getting raped is a great coming of age story that will open the minds of high schoolers through diversity of thought. It won’t. Reading comprehension and correct sentence structure will. Maybe throw in the ability to speak intelligibly for good measure.