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Yet Another Report on the Education Crisis The 100 Hours of Democratic Superstition

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The Heedless People Who Didn't Care About Michael Oher

by Christopher Chantrill
January 02, 2007 at 12:57 pm

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BACK IN THE 1920s heedless rich writers like F. Scott Fitzgerald used to write novels about the heedless rich. They went on their heedless way, these rich WASPs like Tom and Daisy Buchanan, wrecking the lives of poor slobs like auto mechanic Mr. Wilson and his wife Myrtle. Nothing ever touched them. Someone else always took the fall, perhaps the too-eager, too-Jewish Jay Gatsby, né Gatz. It was their money, their old money, that freed the WASPs from accountability.

The WASPs, for their sins, had the misfortune of having their heedlessness memorialized in bestselling novels, dozens of them.

Today, of course, things are very different. No WASP would think of heedlessness today, not for a moment. Your old-stock New England WASP has become careful and prudent. And your lower-class white Protestant church-goer is less than a generation away from redneck heedlessness.

But never fear. Today we have what we might call the “New Heedlessness.” You know what I mean.

As the party of heedlessness, the Democrats have forgotten all the proud talk about the rational social science that would end poverty and injustice. Now they say: If you don’t give us the money you don’t care about kids.

Last week, two commentators discussed the New Heedlessness as they surveyed the political scene at the end of 2006. In Britain, the American columnist Janet Daley reviewed the Conservative Party’s policy report “Breakdown Britain.” It is a shocking rehearsal of the failures of New Labour’s welfare state.

But Daley was not impressed. We know all this stuff, she complained. Why do we need yet another report to tell us that the welfare state has multiplied social pathology out of mind?

In the United States Rich Lowry was not impressed either. His problem was presidential candidate John Edwards and his policy proposals for growing the middle class. Wrote Lowry:

Edwards’ anti-poverty proposals aren’t compelling because they fail to acknowledge a basic truth: It is impossible “to grow the middle class,” as he puts it, without spreading middle-class values. Edwards famously talks of “two Americas.”

Indeed. One America is the one where women get married and then have babies and the other America is where they just have babies. The big middle-class value that Edwards doesn’t really seem to want to speak out loud is the tabooed “M-word that rhymes with carriage.”

There is big trouble in the Other America because after a generation of heedlessness you get a lot of kids running around homeless—in spirit if not in fact. Many of these kids, as Janet Daley points out, “lack what were once considered to be the basic provisions of family life: two parents, [and] a sense of belonging to a stable household (even if it was poor).”

These neglected children are kids like Michael Oher, who turned up recently in The New York Times in Michael Lewis’s “Ballad of Big Mike.” Of kids like Michael you can too often write:

that Michael’s father had been shot and killed and tossed off a bridge, that his mother was addicted to crack cocaine and that his life experience was so narrow that he might as well have spent his first 16 years inside a closet... Big Mike, as he was called, was essentially homeless and so had made an art of sleeping on whatever floor the ghetto would provide for him.

Yes, read the whole thing. It’s a compelling story, and for you sophisticated ironists there is even irony in it.

African American Michael Oher is doing fine now as a stand out left offensive tackle at Ole Miss thanks to a bunch of rich white conservatives at a Christian school in the Old South.

But why should we continue spending five percent of GDP every year on government schooling and $200 billion a year on welfare when a nice kid like Michael Oher completely falls through the safety net? What combination of personal and institutional heedlessness does it take to produce a 16-year-old like Michael Oher, utterly unschooled and utterly unsocialized? How many more are there like him? Hundreds of thousands? Millions?

It would be interesting to apply the “Enron Test” to the case of Michael Oher and the other victims of the welfare state. Suppose that Michael Oher had been neglected not by his mother, the local government child services bureaucracy, and the local school bureaucracy but by the late Ken Lay and the evil Enron corporation. What would our Democratic friends say then?

For the heedless bureaucrats of the welfare state it’s not the money. It’s power that frees them from accountability.

Christopher Chantrill blogs at www.roadtothemiddleclass.com.

Buy his Road to the Middle Class.

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Chappies

“But I saw a man yesterday who knows a fellow who had it from a chappie that said that Urquhart had been dipping himself a bit recklessly off the deep end.”  —Freddy Arbuthnot
Dorothy L. Sayers, Strong Poison


Civil Society

“Civil Society”—a complex welter of intermediate institutions, including businesses, voluntary associations, educational institutions, clubs, unions, media, charities, and churches—builds, in turn, on the family, the primary instrument by which people are socialized into their culture and given the skills that allow them to live in broader society and through which the values and knowledge of that society are transmitted across the generations.
Francis Fukuyama, Trust


Hugo on Genius

“Tear down theory, poetic systems... No more rules, no more models... Genius conjures up rather than learns... ” —Victor Hugo
César Graña, Bohemian versus Bourgeois


Education

“We have met with families in which for weeks together, not an article of sustenance but potatoes had been used; yet for every child the hard-earned sum was provided to send them to school.”
E. G. West, Education and the State


Faith & Purpose

“When we began first to preach these things, the people appeared as awakened from the sleep of ages—they seemed to see for the first time that they were responsible beings, and that a refusal to use the means appointed was a damning sin.”
Finke, Stark, The Churching of America, 1776-1990


Conversion

“When we received Christ,” Phil added, “all of a sudden we now had a rule book to go by, and when we had problems the preacher was right there to give us the answers.”
James M. Ault, Jr., Spirit and Flesh


Postmodernism

A writer who says that there are no truths, or that all truth is ’merely relative’, is asking you not to believe him. So don’t.
Roger Scruton, Modern Philosophy


Faith and Politics

As far as the Catholic Church is concerned, the principal focus of her interventions in the public arena is the protection and promotion of the dignity of the person, and she is thereby consciously drawing particular attention to principles which are not negotiable... [1.] protection of life in all its stages, from the first moment of conception until natural death; [2.] recognition and promotion of the natural structure of the family... [3.] the protection of the right of parents to educate their children.
Pope Benedict XVI, Speech to European Peoples Party, 2006


China and Christianity

At first, we thought [the power of the West] was because you had more powerful guns than we had. Then we thought it was because you had the best political system. Next we focused on your economic system. But in the past twenty years, we have realized that the heart of your culture is your religion: Christianity.
David Aikman, Jesus in Beijing


Religion, Property, and Family

But the only religions that have survived are those which support property and the family. Thus the outlook for communism, which is both anti-property and anti-family, (and also anti-religion), is not promising.
F.A. Hayek, The Fatal Conceit


Conservatism

Conservatism is the philosophy of society. Its ethic is fraternity and its characteristic is authority — the non-coercive social persuasion which operates in a family or a community. It says ‘we should...’.
Danny Kruger, On Fraternity


US Life in 1842

Families helped each other putting up homes and barns. Together, they built churches, schools, and common civic buildings. They collaborated to build roads and bridges. They took pride in being free persons, independent, and self-reliant; but the texture of their lives was cooperative and fraternal.
Michael Novak, The Spirit of Democratic Capitalism


presented by Christopher Chantrill

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