Tuesday, November 25, 2014

ORWELLIAN HISTORY by Phil Goodstein - December 2014 Naysayer

Columbine High School was in the news during the 1994–95 school year. Al Wilder, a veteran teacher, sought to give students a view outside of the system’s artificial and banal boundaries. He so showed his debate class 1900, a powerful movie by Italian director Bernardo Bertolucci. It focused about life, growing up, fascism, resistance, friendship, and love. Included was a graphic scene about bought sex.
The result was horror and heresy. The students were receptive to the film. That was the problem. Their elders, led by Jefferson County’s premier lunatics, the school board, screamed with outrage. They made it plain that school was not a place to encourage eager youngsters to explore the world and question everything around them; on the contrary, it was to turn them into mindless zombies who readily accept the worst of the status quo. The Jefferson Public Schools consequently fired Wilder. Virtually nothing was said about his fate and the horrific world administrators gave students when the Columbine High School Massacre erupted at the academy in April 1999.

Over the past year, the Jeffco school board has sought to outdo Denver Public Schools (DPS) in coming up with mind-numbing rules and bureaucratic dictates. The board has been blunt that ideology is foremost, including an interference with the curriculum. Apparently, the goal is to produce a generation as bad as those currently in power who take school “reform” seriously, i.e., efforts to privatize public schools and make them into profit-generating enterprises.
The Jeffco school board was specifically sought to tinker with the nature of advanced placement American history courses. Here it sees itself as a true disciple of George Orwell. A foremost party slogan in 1984 is “He who controls the present, controls the past. He who controls the past, controls the future.” The goal was to create a pliable past whereby all the good of the present stemmed from the wise decisions of the party in the past while errors were invariability the product of wreckers, saboteurs, and other subversive elements.
Against this, Jeffco wants to emulate past DPS practices. In 1956, the Denver school system launched Channel 6 as an educational and instructional station. Included were broadcast classes. Among them was a course on American history. The teacher lectured and assigned readings and projects. Viewers sent them in to be graded. At the appropriate time, students headed to school to take tests.
For the most part, the classes were incredibly bland. They presented the sterile, colorless history preferred by those with no wit or imagination. There was zero discussion of the background of events, the nature of social conditions, clashes, and divisions within society. Nor was there any reflection of why certain people and forces won while others lost. In other words, they omitted everything that is at the heart of serious historical investigations. Only the most brain dead believe history is simply a chronicle of past occurrences. It is not just what happened, but why.
Internet aficionados are among those with the very least grasp of this. Smugly patting themselves on the back, they think a computer link contains everything worth knowing. Against the crude censorship preferred by despotic governments and agencies like the Jeffco school board, they observe there is a panoply of information on the Internet. Of course, much of it is as unreliable as any statement made by a politician or a corporate stooge. Nor does it get into the heart of such matters as exactly what was the logic of slavery and its legacy. Such issues require people to think. This is as beyond the purviews of those whose world is defined by Wikipedia as it is by the narrow ideological zeal of the Jeffco school board.
Unfortunately, no known tapes of the old Channel Six history lectures are extant. If they could be found, they would illustrate yesterday’s efforts to indoctrinate youths. Their very success could explain the current generation controlling the school board and the government and why they continually grasp at the most ridiculous of panaceas while seeing and learning nothing, the true legacy of those lacking any wit about the nature of the past or the present, true qualifications for a post on the school board.
(The Naysayers will meet at Javier’s, northwest corner of W. 38th Avenue and Tennyson Street, Saturday, December 6, 4:30 PM)


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