Oct.-Nov.1998 Articles:
The Race to be Florida's Next Governor

Mindpower: Love and a Big Butt

Spoil Your Inner Child

Preventing Rape: The Do's and Don'ts

Sexual Politics in the Workplace

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Spoil Your Inner Child

by Steve Vivian

illustration/Marty Kelley

trappedAmericans, being products of a society that prizes youthfulness, might be prone to acting like children. Pop psychology has for some time urged us to look inward to our inner child, and many Americans have, enthusiastically, including our nation's "leaders."

Take Carol Moseley Braun (D-Ill.), elected back in 1992 and celebrated for being the nation's first black female senator. She generated nation-wide support with her winning personality and palpable optimism. Since then, she's served her state and nation by enjoying expensive travel and jewelry you can't find at Wal-Mart. For example, she took trips to Nigeria to visit the now-deceased dictator, Sani Abacha. One wonders how the Senator equated public service with shmoozing with a mass murdering thug. When frumpy columnist George Will pointed out some of the Senator's idiotic missteps, Braun acted like a child caught with a hand in the cookie jar, whining that Will was a racist. Find your inner adult, Senator. Racist claims are, by definition, falsehoods. If a claim is true--such as claims that you show contempt for public money--then it's simply and irrefutably true.

Republicans approach the inner child dynamic differently, in a manner that's more clever and therefore more insidious. Newt Gingrich, for whom a pseudo "revolution" was once named, makes a career of attacking the welfare state. The welfare state, Newt and other Republicans lecture, breeds pathetic child-like dependence. Down with the Nanny State, up with Personal Responsibility!

In fact, Newt and his ilk are the nation's leading beneficiaries of enfeebled dependence. Cobb County Georgia, Newt's congressional district, is kept afloat by direct government subsidy: it's the home of Lockheed, the money-gobbling defense contractor. And many of Cobb County's affluent residents are the very welfare junkies whom Republicans love to skewer. This is the classic example of America's political approach to economics: nanny-state socialism for the rich, grim free-market discipline for everyone else. Newt expertly exploits America's inner child dynamic. He bemoans the sin of government dependency and simultaneously funnels crushing piles of cash to Cobb County and its welfare queen "defense" executives.

Beyond the examples of Carol and Newt is a deep-rooted process. The infantilization of America is ongoing, beginning with the famously fatuous American public school system, which heaps piles of praise on mediocre work. Naturally enough, American education is frequently indifferent, even hostile, towards students who commit the ideologically suspect act of academic achievement. It would "send the wrong message," explain our teachers turned hapless social engineers, if good students got undue attention. This hostility toward kids who value literacy erupts in all kinds of bemusing ways: for instance, many public schools now refuse to recognize students who graduate with honors. Such recognition, argue the mediocrity apologists, commits the sin of "elitism." (One wonders if the whining about "elitism" still holds when the social engineer's child falls ill or has trouble reading. Does he refuse to seek out an accomplished physician or tutor? Does he shout, "No to elitism! No to excellence!" when his kid can't breathe, or can't learn to read?)

Of course, the average and struggling students aren't fooled by our schools' doubletalk. The kids know they're being patronized; they know that schools believe they're stupid and that the blather about their "uniqueness" and "excellence" are cynical lies. No wonder many teachers find kids hard to "reach," the kids get sick of being talked down to.

The baby talk continues into adulthood of course, though it's sometimes disguised in euphemisms such as "diversity." The uproars in California about the end of race-based higher education admissions and bilingual education both highlight the ugly condescension that the social engineers hold for selected minorities. "Minority admissions" (PC-speak for black and Hispanic ... not Japanese, Chinese, Jewish, Indian, or other unworthy minorities) will disappear if standards aren't "fine-tuned," so fret the social engineers. This claim is shamelessly racist. Educators must really believe that blacks and Hispanics are innately inferior. What else but racism explains lower admissions standards for middle-class and well-off blacks and Hispanics than for poor and working-class Asians and whites? On this point, education's "liberals" evidently agree with the Klan and crackpot theorists of race-based intelligence. As for bilingual education, the issue was forced onto California's ballot by, among others, Hispanic parents. The parents had grown mightily pissed at the schools' condescension toward their children. If other immigrant children can learn English--such as Chinese kids, for example, who speak a language radically different from English--then Hispanic children certainly can.

If American education would end the patronizing and begin the educating, hand-wringing about minority admissions would fade. Children of all races would receive educations, not sugar-coated contempt. Imagine that: a nation that honestly knows all its young citizens, no matter what their race or gender or class, can learn to read well, to write well, to reason logically. And--a frightening notion for self-appointed saviors--the kids can even learn to think for themselves.

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