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  • February 23rd, 2018

THE FUTURE IS IN THEIR HANDS

By Joel M. Vance

There is an ultraconservative website called Townhall Daily which I check periodically just to get my anger quotient up. Reading any of the columnist postings is guaranteed to raise my anger quotient exponentially.
Recently, a column by Michelle Malkin, a regular of the right wing media outlets, really lit my fuse. Here is one paragraph of what she wrote: “Pubescents are fueled by hormones and dopamine and pizza and Sonic shakes. They’re fickle and fragile and fierce and forgetful. They hate you. They love you. They need you. They ignore you. They know everything. They know nothing. All in the span of 10 seconds. I know. I have two of them. If you’re lucky, they’ve only Googled ‘Should I eat Tide pods?’ or ‘What happens if I snort Ramen powder?’ and not actually attempted the latest social media stunt challenges. But that’s what kids do. Because they’re kids.”
I suspect that a normal teenager, reading her description of a normal teenager, would react by saying, “Thank God I’m not one of her two kids!” If that truly is her opinion of an average teenager, she deserves not to be thought of as Mother of the Year, but as Mother From Hell.
Malkin unsurprisingly is the darling of the right wing media, a syndicated columnist a contributor to Fox News and a frequent guest on the Sean Hannity show as well as Fox and Friends. I find it difficult to believe that Malkin, given the often demonstrated antipathy toward women of Fox News and its various sexual predators, would associate herself with such a misogynistic and demeaning band of male chauvinists, but she obviously thinks more of them than she does of teenagers.
Her jeremiad against teenagers was the result of teenager anger reacting to the school shooting in Florida and came simultaneous with a march on the state capital by survivors from that horrendous shooting rampage at the Parkland high school which took the lives of 17 of those fickle and fragile and fierce and forgetful pubescents. Those “know nothing” teenagers were, for some reason, upset about the lack of common sense gun restrictions which enabled a mentally derailed 19-year-old to legally buy an assault rifle which he used to gun down 17 non gun bearing teenagers. Perhaps he was the teenager whom Ms. Malkin was thinking of when she described her concept of the typical teenager. “….their moral agency and cognitive abilities are far from fully developed,” she wrote. “Most are in no position to change the world when they can’t even remember to change their own bedsheets.”
Enough of Ms. Malkin. Let her crawl back into bed with her gun toting, right wing, bedsheet wearing compadres where they can compare notes on just how depraved today’s teenagers are, and how they all will grow up to be liberal enemies. How dare they dream to change the world for the better! The little bastards!
Give me five each of today’s congressmen from both parties—make them the leaders of their respective parties in Congress— and pit them against any ten of the hundred or more teenage survivors of the Florida high school massacre who traveled to the state capital pleading for sensible gun regulation and ask them what it is they stand for. Do you think the two groups would measure up in cognitive ability and moral agency and a dream to change the world for the better? I’d put my money on the kids. Give them 10 years of adult development, if things continue to deteriorate in our country and they may be just as morally bankrupt as today’s leaders, but I would hope there will be a revival of the teenage rebelliousness of the 1960s when it was the youth of the country that brought change, not the mudstuck adult leadership.
The images of high school students, angry but incredibly articulate expressing their outrage, their trauma and their cry for sensible gun legislation, as they protested in the halls of the Florida capital were moving and if they fail to impress the legislators and kick them to action, it would be a graphic reflection of the indifference of today’s politicians to the concerns of the nation and its unraveling moral fiber. Almost predictably, Florida Gov. Rick Scott, who has been named A+ by the National Rifle Association, first refused to meet with the protesting students because he was “too busy”.
Country Joe declaimed in song, “hell no, I won’t go!” And teenagers burned their draft cards, and their outrage against our involvement in a bloody and useless war in Vietnam finally pushed Lyndon Johnson and Robert McNamara and the most trusted man in America, Walter Cronkite, to realize that, as a country, we had royally screwed up. Instead of 17, it was more than 50,000 youngsters who paid with their lives to bring about fundamental change in the country, but the point was that young people made the difference. It could happen again if youthful anger continues to spread and grow until Congress is forced by the weight of that anger to take action against senseless slaughter in schools, clubs and other public places. It was the angry, sometimes violent, actions of a young America, pushed too far, by the irrational behavior of adults who brought about social change in the country. Perhaps Martin Luther King was the spokesperson for young black youth which forced meaningful civil rights legislation, but it was their voice speaking as much as his.
And it wasn’t homicidal anger like that of the mentally ill shooter in Florida, but an anger that demanded that the adult population of the country come to its senses and quit acting like spoiled and unruly infants having a national tantrum.
Malkin (okay, one more reference to her and then we will purge her like a bad clam) also takes a shot at Common Core, the education system that is reviled both by the conservative right, and the generally liberal leaning professional education left.
Adopted in one form or another by 45 of the 50 states, Common Core basically is a system of standards that schools must live up to or face penalties. Standard tests serve as guidelines for student achievement. On the surface the idea sounds like a good one. Lord knows, the education system needs stimulation. The United States lags behind other countries in student achievement and the reasons are varied and many.
But the prime arguments against Common Core are two: One is that the concept of one size fits all is fundamentally flawed. People are not stamped from cookie cutters and what applies to one, does not apply to the next. The other argument that seems to me to make eminent sense is that all schools are not created equal. Factor in the money available to pay good teachers, the social structure of the student body and the local society, as well as other factors which divide schools into high achievers and those not as progressive, you have a system which does not equate to the ideal envisioned by Common Core.
Further, the emphasis on mathematics and language skills, while necessary and admirable,, tends to sideline such studies as art and music, which may not mean much in the conservative world of business and hard-core economics. But I happen to feel that art and music and such touchy-feely sidelines in the educational spectrum are important in creating total human beings rather than pragmatic machines marching through life in lockstep.
By mandating that teacher achievement and value is measured by their ability to teach to a test score inevitably stifles creativity and initiative on the part of the teacher. The whole concept of Common Core is flawed. Set the standards too high and they are unreachable. Set them too low so that every student reaches them and you run the risk of creating a society of worker bees.
Every classroom is an amalgam of bright students and dull ones, those with ambition, those without. The challenge to a teacher is somehow to touch all these levels of enthusiasm not only with knowledge of a given subject but also with a desire in the student to learn more as well as an appreciation of having learned something.
Slapping a standard test in front of a kid and saying “you need to pass this or we’re all screwed” is no way to run an educational system. Weed out the bad teachers and pay good ones what they deserve, allowing them the initiative to teach, and inevitably the educational system will improve without the need for standardized testing that does nothing more than cramp a given teacher’s initiative and put pressure on him or her to force-feed certain subject areas at the expense of the total package.
The traumatized Florida students had barely finished their eloquent pleas for the politicians to do something about sane gun regulations when the conspiracy madmen—and Michelle Malkin aside, they all are men— were busy posting social media rants claiming that the students were paid actors. At the risk of being accused of being a conspiracy theorist myself, I suspect the grimy hand of Vladimir Putin and his henchpeople being involved in the social media tweetstorm against the high school students. These are people who should be denied the right, Second Amendment or not, to buy assault weapons—you know, mentally ill. Except, as gun regulations now exist, mentally ill people are unfortunately able to buy and use assault weapons.
You can always count on Bill O’Reilly to say something inflammatory and stupid and he tweeted this: ”The big question is: should the media be promoting opinions by teenagers who are in an emotional state and facing extreme peer pressure in some cases? “
To which Nicole, an articulate teenager responded thusly: “The same people that said 13 and 14 year olds were perfectly mature enough to date Roy Moore are now saying 17 and 18 year olds are too immature to have opinions on gun control.”
Bill O’Reilly and his odious ilk notwithstanding, the country’s youngsters are angry, pushed too far. Fired up, they have changed the country before, and I pray they can do it again. Go kids! This is not high school sports— this is the real big game–your future– and yours to win.

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