Mark Naison, the author of this post, is a Professor of African-American Studies and History at Fordham University and Director of Fordham’s Urban Studies Program. He is the author of three books and over 100 articles on African-American History, urban history, and the history of sports. The post originally appeared on Naison’s blog With a Brooklyn Accent.
In the spring and summer of 1965, as US policy makers debated whether to send large numbers of US ground troops to Vietnam to insure that the South Vietnamese government not collapse , a longtime Washington insider named George Ball issued a fierce warning that the policy being recommended would be disastrous. Declaring that the conflict in Vietnam was a“civil war among Asians” not a front of a global struggle against Communism, Ball warned that sending US ground troops lead would lead to national humiliation no matter how large the force sent or the technological advantage it possessed because it would cement the character of the war, from the Vietnamese side, as a struggle against a foreign invader. Ball’s advice needless to say, was disregarded, and the result was exactly as he predicted- a humiliating defeat for the US which extracted a terrifying toll in deaths and ecological damage on the Vietnamese people
A powerful letter from a teacher in North Carolina appeared recently on Diane Ravitch’s blog. Many of us who work in higher education, when we read it, wring our hands and think, “There but for the grace of God go I.” But it might be that we should not be sending to know for whom the bell tolls and saying our prayers for others. We may be on our death bed, too.
The author of the letter, Kris Nielsen writes eloquently, and should be read by everyone involved in American education, at all levels. She writes:
I refuse to be led by a top-down hierarchy that is completely detached from the classrooms for which it is supposed to be responsible.
We all should be joining her, creating a strike for real education, but we don’t. I don’t. Teaching is my living and I go about it passionately. But I don’t have the guts to say that the line has been crossed and I cannot do it any longer. I am still trying to fight back from within the system. CUNY Pathways, for example, is a result of just such a hierarchy, especially in its implementation. Its goals are laudable, but they cannot be met through a program designed by people far removed from the students, classrooms, and teachers it affects. I am working as hard as I can to help make the program a success, but I worry that I am also prolonging the death-throes of education strangled by a system beholden not to learning but to organization and efficiency.
This morning, Diane Ravitch quotes from Mike Lofgren’s story in The American Conservative, “Revolt of the Rich.” She comments:
What is so astonishing these days is that the super-rich… have control of a large part of the mainstream media. They can afford to take out television advertising, even though their views are echoed on the news and opinion programs. And the American public, or a large part of it, is persuaded to vote against its own self-interest. A friend told me the other day that his brother, who barely subsists on social security, was worried that Obama might raise taxes on people making over $250,000. How can you explain his concern about raising taxes on those who can most afford it?
Twenty years ago, I visited Moscow and St. Petersburg and saw the remnants of the super rich of the czar’s time, including bejeweled carriages that had signaled a remove from the “moochers” (as Ayn Rand, whose family lost everything in the Russian revolution, called them). A passage in Lofgren’s piece reminded me of them: