From the Archives 8

An argument for the goodness of the CCSS English standards.A way at the new standards that enhances the study of literature while helping students become effective readers of the world and the media that reports the world.Cliven Bundy: The other day I thought what a good thing it would be to bring Cliven Bundy into the classroom as a narrative, a character study, a study of critically important themes in the literature, particularly American literature, themes of rights and responsibilities, democratic process, the individual or individualist and his or her relationship to a society the government of which is dedicated to preserving rights while providing for the good of the whole, the common good, justice and injustice, law and human freedoms (law curtailing freedom for the cause of the most freedom possible for most, and with a concern for the freedom of all), and a host more, themes so rich as to be of the sort that places the focus of a classroom right on the things that really count. And then the setting and the setting and its effect on the characters in play and the plot, a delicious one that instantly leads the literate American to writers such as Thoreau, Thoreau the impossible made wonderfully possible by virtue of the relevance of “Civil Disobedience” to the Bundy case, the courts and justice, the unjust elements of justice necessary for the existence of a civil society.I HEARTILY ACCEPT the motto, — “That government is best which governs least”;(1) and I should like to see it acted up to more rapidly and systematically. Carried out, it finally amounts to this, which also I believe, — “That government is best which governs not at all”; and when men are prepared for it, that will be the kind of government which they will have. Government is at best but an expedient; but most governments are usually, and all governments are sometimes, inexpedient.Wow! And then Bundy brought in issues of race that led me to consider the whole idea of the Tea Party, self proclaimed patriots who do not like the government or the processes of government that are at the heart of the American democracy, patriots loyal to another country, of some sort, that they envision to be somehow more American than the country that is the United States of America. Irony! A nation that would insure that, so it seems, people are free to know their place in society as prescribed by these patriots, amongst them the Bundys who are about the Posse Comitatus, sheriffs enforcing the laws because the law of the whole of the land isn’t the kind of law Southerners wanted enforced, refused to obey following the end of the Civil War!Bundy opens up with his vision of people better off in slavery doing their job, picking cotton without complaint and getting along with those in charge, the good slave holders who kept those people focused on their work, work that kept them out of trouble and out of jail, on the right track, wholesome beings who would do what the master said and not get out of line because getting out of line meant out of wedlock births and jail time because those people, as Bundy and his ilk know, simply cannot handle freedom, freedom getting them into a whole bunch of trouble, unchristian kinds of trouble.So, for the cause of proving the goodness in slavery and the good treatment of these people by good Christian people like Cliven Bundy, what is needed is a government that does not stick its nose into the people’s business and schools that tell it like it should be sans the likes of Richard Wright and those other angry and misguided Negros, especially the radicals like Baldwin and especially those the likes of Baraka and Clever.All of this becomes the topic of classroom discourse, the teacher bringing in the initial stuff, the students bringing in other stuff, their participation in the discourse creating more stuff and more stuff to feed the discourse.And somehow, not really miraculously, a student, in such a course, having discovered the resources of the internet, brings in the Donald Sterling Clippers story and the teacher brings in Langston Hughes poem about the landlord and it gets even more ugly and revealing when the discourse comes to include that Wright Poem “Between the World and Me” and maybe “Sonny’s Blues,” and articles about the plight of the many groups of people who are disenfranchised and scorned for not adaption properly to the good society that has, historically, denied access to the society, access to a decent education to so many for cruel and stupid reasons made to seem sensible so that the Clivens of the world and the Sterlings can hold onto power that, for the sake of democracy, would be in much better hands if given to those who understood well the meanings found in works by the authors so far mentioned here, who understood how those meanings can and should be allowed to color the people’s thinking so they can understand what the newspapers and television programs and the Twitter and Instagram, and Facebook memes are about and how they should be taken when one is going about making important decisions that really do affect the lives of others.I bet that if I go back and read those CCSS goals, read them well, I can begin to understand not only how they hold potential for growing citizens who have what they need to grow a better society. And, I can begin to discover why it is that so many, many the likes of Cliven and his friends in the Oath Takers and the Tea Party, folks supported by good Americans like Hannity and Rush and the editorialists at the Washington Times, hate those new standards.The use of non-fiction in the English classroom, it seems to me, is a real brainer or, as the terminology of the day would have it, a no-brainer. Huh?

By lafered

Retired professor of education concerned with thoughtfulness

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