Monday, February 27, 2012

The problem of the mummy teacher

When I became a teacher I soon discovered that the English and history departments in the schools I taught at were dedicated not so much to English and history but to another subject altogether, one which focused obsessively on instances of white racism.

I explained this in terms of the old guard of teachers in those departments. These teachers had typically gone to uni at the height of student radicalism in the early 1970s. They were lefty true believers and very political. It was difficult to challenge them because they were so fiercely committed to political leftism as a world view. But they were on the verge of retirement. My hope was that things would improve after they left and a new generation of teachers replaced them.

And nearly all of those teachers have now retired. But, if anything, things have gotten worse not better.

Why? The problem now is the mummy teacher. The mummy teacher is a very nice person. She bakes for students and staff. She hugs the students and calls them "dear" and "darling". She gives them cards in little decorated envelopes. She is a feminine creature and very "emotionally empathetic".

In a family setting that would be an undoubted virtue. Who would not want to be loved by a mother like that? But what is a virtue at home can be a vice at school.

The mummy teacher is not very political. Sometimes she is not political at all. But she is addicted to issues of white racism. It is what drives her commitment to teaching. She needs it and feeds off it. It is her constant obsession.

I've pondered this for some time now. I've come to believe that the mummy teacher obsesses over issues of white racism for two reasons. First, it creates a powerful emotional moment for her. She can create an emotionally charged journey for herself and her students by studying the holocaust, or lynchings, or apartheid, or refugees or Aborigines.

She does not find this journey unpleasant. She likes to get emotional. Ordinary life does not afford her the opportunity to experience her emotions as she would like to. It is something she looks forward to, the way that some women might enjoy getting caught up emotionally in a romance novel.

It seems natural to her to choose to focus on such things. Why would she focus instead on, say, the creation of Ancient Greek civilisation? What depth of emotion is there for her in that? And why would she focus on correct usage of grammar? Again, how would that motivate the career of a highly emotionally empathetic woman? She might as well stay home with the kids - there would be a greater emotional experience in that. If she's going to come to school, she has to have what seems to her a worthwhile reason to do so.

And what is the second reason for her obsession with the holocaust, apartheid, refugees, the civil rights movement etc. Experiencing life as a highly empathetic woman, she wants to mould her students to be the same. She assumes that the point of teaching history and English is to instill empathy in her students. To identify emotionally with the "other" becomes the ultimate educational aim of both English and history.

For that reason, what she enjoys most is teaching students to create "emotionally persuasive" arguments in their class presentations. And she does not shy away from encouraging students to adopt a stance of advocacy rather than one of dispassionate analysis of the facts.

The result is that white communities, already suffering from a lack of self-belief, get hammered over and over in the school curriculum. And not by radical liberals, but by emotionally feminine women.

What can we do about this? I would suggest the following:

a) Ideally traditionalists would set up independent schools. In Australia close to half of students already attend independent schools.

b) It would help if more men were encouraged to become English and history teachers. That's not an automatic solution: there are plenty of "soft liberal" men in the education system. But the more men, the less likely it is that the feminisation of English and history will run out of control.

c) We need to set out clearly an alternative view of what the teaching of English and history aims to achieve. There doesn't have to be one single aim. The study of history, for instance, might aim to encourage a sense of connectedness to a longstanding tradition; it might set out to encourage an appreciation of art and culture; it might aim to develop analytical writing skills; it might aim to equip students with sufficient general knowledge to take part in educated conversation; it might aim as well to encourage an interest or inquisitiveness in the past and a sense of its relevance to people today.

d) We can encourage parents to take up the role neglected at school by teaching their children about the history and culture of their own tradition. This can be done through books, films, projects, trips to historic sites, family trees and family histories etc.

e) Even a small group of traditionalists could run an after hours programme, offering informal courses in history and culture. Alternatively, a small group of traditionalists could commission books and resources and make them available to parents.

f) We can encourage parents to be careful in looking over the history and English programmes when considering schools for their children. Parents can ask which books and films are analysed at different year levels. If they are mostly about white racism, then parents could opt for a different school.

Finally, to finish on a positive note, there's a story in the Daily Mail today about plans to encourage parents to visit local history sites with their children:
Simon Thurley, chief executive of English Heritage, said: ‘In the high street, the housing estate, the park, riverside and field, every town, city and village is full of places in which significant events have taken place.

‘We want every child, their parents and teachers to enjoy and take pride in the heritage of their local area.’

14 comments:

  1. This comment has been removed by the author.

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  2. The danger in my view is that the "mummy teacher" will not lead our people into cultural insecurity but into practical ineptitude. Our people need skills, intellectual confidence and ambition in their aims and not emotional understanding. So men get in touch with their feelings and all they feel is pissed off, unless they're whimps. After that they can become all about as effective as coloured thugs.

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  3. Excellent post, and very very creepy.

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  4. "Ideally traditionalists would set up independent schools. In Australia close to half of students already attend independent schools."

    Maybe it's different in Oz, but here in the US the private schools are run by the same liberals who run the public schools.

    I recently visited about 10 local schools because my son will be in kindergarten next September. Public, public "magnet", private, private for "gifted", private for Catholics, Montessori, it just didn't matter, it was the same mummy teacher pap at every single one. Maybe part of it was we did our visits right after Martin Luther King day.

    A particularly nauseating example was a wall on which the kids had each posted their "dream". Every "dream" was out of the liberal playbook: no more poverty, no more war, blah blah blah. I could not believe for a minute that kids would do that without coaching.

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  5. Great post, again, the solution is for more conservative types to go for jobs in leftists strongholds. The same needs to be done in mainstream media positions, we need young people to enter uni with dreams of revealing the truth about the consequences of the social revolutions of the late
    20th century - e.g. feminism and the coming demographic winter.

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  6. Anonymous wrote...

    Maybe it's different in Oz, but here in the US the private schools are run by the same liberals who run the public schools.

    A very good point. It's not enough just to opt out of the public system. If you're going to send your kids to a private school you need to get involved with the school and make it quite clear that you don't appreciate your kids being subjected to leftist political indoctrination. And you need to link up with other parents who are concerned about the issue. Teachers and schools need to learn that if they play politics they will be confronted about it.

    But it's probably hopeless. Homeschooling seems like the only viable answer.

    Or maybe the answer is some kind of networked homeschooling. Virtual schools perhaps. Some way of making homeschooling less of a burden to parents and therefore a more attractive option. You have to ask if bricks-and-mortar schools are really necessary these days.

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  7. Or maybe the answer is some kind of networked homeschooling.

    There are a couple of Catholic homeschooling networks in the USA and they're more of a traditional conservative bent. They don't like theological liberalism. Check out the Protestant ones as well to see whether they're to your liking.

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  8. as a (new) teacher myself, i approve of your ideas, particularly the independent schools one. i know of at least one independent catholic school in nsw that has a conservative bend. it gives me hope

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  9. http://alphagameplan.blogspot.com.au/2012/02/christianity-of-game.html

    Mark OT You should really have a look at this.

    Had me thinking for a quite a while.

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  10. And not by radical liberals, but by emotionally feminine women.

    I wouldn't call these women feminine. They're still radical liberals.

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  11. Anonymous writes:

    "as a (new) teacher myself, i approve of your ideas, particularly the independent schools one. i know of at least one independent catholic school in nsw that has a conservative bend. it gives me hope"

    What does not give me hope is the spectacle of a teacher too illiterate to use upper-case lettering when it is required.

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  12. Maybe it's different in Oz, but here in the US the private schools are run by the same liberals who run the public schools.

    To be fair, this assessment leaves out the independent Christian school movement, which educates at bit over a million children. They've been popping up at increasingly fast rates, especially in conservative rural areas. When parents are willing to get off the welfare schooling and foot the bill for the education of their own kids, only then will we be able to roll back the liberal stranglehold on education.

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  13. As a home educating mother I take offence at the implications of this title. I would like to suggest that the issue is not so much that what the teachers are addressing is not wrong, but unbalanced in terms of omitting many goods the English speaking peoples have achieved.

    I feel as a Christian that reflecting on the holocaust is pertinent, we need to understand the role of Israel today. In addition, understanding the crusades, the rise of Islam, the rise and fall of the Roman Empire, are huge.

    As Australians, aboriginal history is important to have a balanced perspective on. Many of the older generation have one perspective. I was grateful to my male social studies school teacher who offered reasons for alcoholism etc which laid more responsibility on the white settlers than many more bigoted people acknowledge (such as offering alcohol as payment for work instead of money or food).

    White people have done good and bad, I am not afraid to acknowledge the bad but we can acknowledge the good too. All humanity has pros and cons.

    I think a good solution would be to bring some more literature based education in to school through quality biographies and the like which people connect to. I think there needs to be education in how to reflect and question the status quo as well. Without examining different perspectives we can't always get an accurate picture of history.

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