Frustrated young white men are facing class divisions more than racial divides

Why can’t white supremacists confront the fact that the source of their economic problems are white economic elites?

Why can't white supremacists confront the fact that the source of their economic problems are white economic elites?
(Credit: AP Photo/Bruce Smith)
This article originally appeared on AlterNet.

AlterNet

There’s no disputing the white anger and rage seen in Charlottesville, even if conservative publications like the National Review say these “angry white boys do not have a political agenda.”

Their anger is real and grievances differ, even if they took the old path of joining mobs spewing racist filth. Yet these white supremacists are blaming the wrong slices of society for their angst.

Racial divides are not what’s plaguing vast stretches of white America — deepening class divides are. If you think about who is to blame, it is mostly powerful white capitalists and their government servants that decimated regional economies in recent decades.

Many Democrats keep saying inequality is the top economic issue, as Eduardo Porter wrote for the New York Times in a piece that recaps the party’s national political agenda. However, the conventional wisdom that Democrats need to “recover the support of the middle-class — people in families earning $50,000 to $150,000, whose vote went to Mr. Trump,” especially in swing states “where three-quarters of voters are white” — is not acknowledging the roots of America’s latest outburst of white supremacy.

“Our economy is in very serious trouble. Ten or fifteen years from now, the standard of living of our average citizen may actually be lower than it is today,” writes Steve Slavin, author of the new book, “The Great American Economy: How Inefficiency Broke It and What We Can Do To Fix It.” “Large swaths of the suburbs will be slums, and tens of millions of Americans will have joined the permanent underclass. There will be three separate Americas — the rich and near rich, an economically downscaled middle and working class, and a very large poor population.”

Slavin cites eight major economic trends, pointing out that almost everyone who is not living in wealthy enclaves — usually coastal cities or inland hubs — is facing a downward spiral that’s been decades in the making. These are the same stretches of suburban and rural America that elected Trump, elected the right-wing House Freedom Caucus, where hate groups are concentrated, and where many of those arrested in Charlottesville come from. They hail from the losing end of the trends Slavin cites and forecasts for the country.

It may very well be that the external circumstances of the whites protesting are “pretty good,” as the National Review’s Kevin Williamson writes, compared to non-white America. That’s even more reason to condemn their visceral rage and hate speech. But as Slavin notes, the national economy and sense of well-being is on a downward slide that accelerated in recent decades.

Those responsible are largely white politicians, white business executives and more recently the graduates of elite business schools — where the curriculum involved outsourcing domestic industries that once allowed people without degrees to prosper.

The culprit here is primarily class — even though race and class are often synonymous. If anything, the downwardly spiraling sections of white America today eerily resemble inner cities in the 1960s, where non-whites called for economic justice. Those urban cores were abandoned after two decades of white flight to the suburbs and manufacturers also leaving.

Here are eight overarching economic trends that Slavin notes have clobbered the middle class, working class and poor.

1. Manufacturing has mostly vanished. Notwithstanding Trump’s announcements that a few companies based overseas are returning, factory jobs have largely disappeared from the interior of America, where from World War II through the 1980s they anchored cities and counties.

2. Many cities have fallen into decline. Starting after WWII, the government and industry promoted suburbia, abandoning scores of cities to the mostly non-white poor. Detroit’s carmakers bought and dismantled public transit. That led to today’s costly transportation needs with a nation of commuters paying a lot for private vehicles, gas and insurance and spending hours away from home.

3. Health care costs have left wages frozen. Average wages have not seen increases, after being adjusted for inflation, for decades. A big part of the reason is businesses that provide health insurance have to keep paying more to insurers rather than employees. Meanwhile, insurers keep finding ways to draw on what’s left in people’s pockets.

4. Public education is vastly underfunded. Suburban schools in wealthy enclaves might be fine, but nationally half of high school graduates are not at the same level as graduates of other countries and their better achieving peers. That forecloses opportunity.

5. The government is not reinvesting in America. This is not simply about neglected roads and bridges. The U.S. government supports a beyond bloated military industrial complex that accounts for 40 percent of global spending on weapons. This may be domestic spending, but it is not spending on domestic needs.

6. The criminal justice system is bloated. Here too, the U.S. has the highest incarceration rate of any industrialized nation; a predatory system that targets lower-income people and creates taxpayer-funded private police forces.

7. The make-work private sector’s useless jobs. This isn’t just the growth of service industries, but “more than 15 million Americans hold jobs that do not produce any useful goods or services,” such as bill collectors, telemarketers, sales reps paid on commission, etc., Slavin writes.

8. The bloated financial sector. This is Wall Street’s diversion of savings from productive investments to speculative ventures, where money is made from tracking the movement of other assets or the public is sold repackaged securities that generate fees.

In every one of these eight areas, wealthy whites in positions of power and privilege have made decisions that collectively have set the country on the path to today’s downward economic spiral. Right after World War II, the federal government would not lend money to black veterans to buy homes in newly expanding suburbs. They gave real estate investors like Fred Trump, the president’s father, money to build what became urban housing projects where many occupants were non-white renters.

There were not many non-white executives in Detroit when the auto industry acted to destroy public transit systems. There were not many non-whites on corporate boards in the 1980s, when the first wave of moving manufacturing abroad hit. The business schools minting sought-after MBAs were teaching predominantly white students to take operations to countries where labor was cheaper, or extolling the virtues of businesses like Walmart that decimated entire Main Streets across small-town America.

The list goes on and a pattern emerges — a class division, more so than race — which has deepened and afflicts America today. As Slavin writes, “Perhaps the most persuasive indicator of our nation’s economic decline is that millennials are on track to be the first generation in our nation’s history to be poorer than its parents’ generation. In January 2017, CNBC reported, ‘With a median household income of $40,581, millennials earn 20 percent less than boomers did at the same stage of life, despite being better educated, according to a new analysis of Federal Reserve data by the advocacy group Young Invincibles.’”

The Young Invincibles are a progressive group concerned about health care, higher education, workforce and finance, and civic engagement. But their name could also be used to describe the belligerent attitude of the white marchers in Charlottesville.

As Williamson writes derisively in the conservative National Review, “What does an angry white boy want? The fact that they get together to play dress-up — to engage in a large and sometimes murderous game of cowboys and Indians—may give us our answer. They want to be someone other than who they are. That’s the great irony of identity politics: They seek identity in the tribe because they are failed individuals. They are a chain composed exclusively of weak links. What they are engaged in isn’t politics, but theater: play-acting in the hopes of achieving catharsis.”

But Williamson only hints at what they seem to want — and it’s exactly what Slavin nails. These angry whites are being bypassed by structural changes in the economy that are narrowing their options. Needless to say, most people in dire straits do not embrace violence and racism. But it seems the heart of their grievances appear to be based on class frustrations, not race. If the white marchers want to blame someone, they ought to point their fingers at the wealthy whites on Wall Street and in Washington.

 

Salon

Donald Trump, a classic case of affirmative action for the wealthy, wants to take it away from the disadvantaged

President often claims he’s “like, a smart person” — but he didn’t get into Wharton on his academic merits

Of all the issues facing higher education today — skyrocketing student debt, for-profit colleges ripping off its students and government subsidies, declining college enrollment – President Trump has chosen to make it harder for black and Latino students to get into college.

The Trump administration is preparing to sue universities over affirmative action admissions policies deemed to discriminate against white applicants, according to a document obtained by The New York Times.

Apparently Trump objects to affirmative action for African-Americans and Latinos, but not to affirmative action for the super-rich and the well-connected. That’s how Trump got into the University of Pennsylvania in 1966.

Over the years, Trump has frequently referred to his Ivy League credentials as evidence of his intelligence. In a 2004 interview with CNN, Trump said, “I went to the Wharton School of Finance. I got very good marks. I was a good student. It’s the best business school in the world, as far as I’m concerned.”

In 2011, Trump told ABC News, “Let me tell you, I’m a really smart guy. I was a really good student at the best school in the country,” referring once again to Wharton, the University of Pennsylvania’s business school, where he earned a bachelor’s degree in 1968.

“I went to the Wharton School of Finance,” he said during a campaign speech in Phoenix in July 2015. “I’m, like, a really smart person.”

In an interview on NBC’s “Meet the Press” in August 2015, Trump described Whartonas “probably the hardest [school] there is to get into.” He added, “Some of the great business minds in the world have gone to Wharton.” He also observed: “Look, if I were a liberal Democrat, people would say I’m the super genius of all time. The super genius of all time.”

During a CNN-sponsored Republican town hall in Columbia, South Carolina in February 2016, Trump reminded the audience that he had gone to Wharton and then repeated his boast: “Look, I went to the best school, I was a good student and all of this stuff. I mean, I’m a smart person.”

Last December, in an interview with Fox News’ Chris Wallace, Trump repeated those same words to explain why he didn’t need daily updates from intelligence professionals about national security threats, a tradition that goes back to President Harry Truman. “I’m, like, a smart person,” he told Wallace.

He did it again on Jan. 21 of this year, the day after his inauguration, during a visit to CIA headquarters. Trump’s scripted remarks turned into a rambling rant that included attacks on the media and his insistence that as many as 1.5 million people attended his inauguration. In the middle of his tirade, Trump felt the need to tell the nation’s top spies that he is a bright guy. “Trust me,” Trump said, “I’m, like, a smart person.”

Trump has repeated that claim many times. Each time, it isn’t clear if he’s trying to convince his interviewer or himself. Indeed, anyone who feels compelled to boast about his academic pedigree and how smart he is clearly suffers from profound insecurity about his intelligence and accomplishments. In Trump’s case, he has good reason to have doubts.

Trump surely knows he didn’t get into Wharton on his own merits. He transferred into its undergraduate program after spending two years at Fordham University in New York, where he had no significant achievements.

“No one I know of has said ‘I remember Donald Trump,’” Paul F. Gerken, a 1968 Fordham graduate and president of the Fordham College Alumni Association, told the Chronicle of Higher Education. “Whatever he did at Fordham, he didn’t leave footprints.”

In her 2001 biography, “The Trumps,” Gwenda Blair reported that Trump’s grades at Fordham were not good enough to qualify him to transfer to Wharton. According to Blair, Trump got into Wharton as a special favor from a “friendly” admissions officer who was a high school classmate of Trump’s older brother, Freddy. The college’s admissions staff was surely aware that Trump’s father was a wealthy real estate developer and a potential donor.

Other than his father’s money and his family’s connections, Trump had no qualifications that would have otherwise gotten him into Wharton. (Most people who mention Wharton refer to its prestigious MBA program, but Trump was an economics major in the undergraduate program.)

In high school at the New York Military Academy, Trump was not an outstanding student. He didn’t organize his fellow students to tutor underprivileged kids or raise money for cancer research. In his senior year, he was removed from his post as captain and transferred to a job on the school staff, with no command responsibilities. According to his fellow students, Trump wasn’t able to control the cadets under his command.

Moreover, for years Trump exaggerated his academic accomplishments at Wharton. On at least two occasions in the 1970s, the New York Times reported that Trump “graduated first in his class” at Wharton in 1968. That’s not true. The dean’s list for his graduation year, published in the Daily Pennsylvanian, the campus newspaper, doesn’t include Trump’s name. He has refused to release his grade transcripts from his college days.

The fabrication that Trump was first in his class has been repeated in many other articles and books about Trump, but he has never bothered to correct it.

Upon graduating from college, Trump didn’t have to apply for jobs or go through interviews with potential employers who would judge him on his merits. Instead, his father Fred Trump handed young Donald the keys to his real estate empire.

Despite this, Trump often tries to portray himself as a self-made entrepreneur. “It has not been easy for me,” Trump said at a town hall meeting on Oct. 26, 2015, acknowledging, “My father gave me a small loan of a million dollars.”

But an investigation by The Washington Post last year demolished Trump’s claim that he made it on his own. Not only did Trump’s father provide Donald with a huge inheritance and set up big-bucks trust accounts to provide his son with a steady income, Fred was also a silent partner in Trump’s first real estate projects. According to the Post:

Trump’s father — whose name had been besmirched in New York real estate circles after investigations into windfall profits and other abuses in his real estate projects — was an essential silent partner in Trump’s initiative. In effect, the son was the front man, relying on his father’s connections and wealth, while his father stood silently in the background to avoid drawing attention to himself.

Born into privilege, Trump got into Wharton through family connections and then inherited a fortune. Now his administration is preparing to thwart efforts by colleges and universities to recruit students of color who had to overcome obstacles that Trump can’t even imagine. The Justice Department memo uncovered by The New York Times described its plan as challenging “intentional race-based discrimination,” referring to programs designed to bring more minority students to college campuses.

Affirmative action programs were designed to help qualified students who lack the sorts of connections that Trump used to get into Wharton. The purpose is to level the playing field by helping students who have had to cope with considerable economic and social disadvantages, including racism.

No selective university or college simply uses grades and test scores in deciding which students to accept. Colleges accept students whose high-school grades and SAT scores meet a basic threshold, and then give extra points to students with various characteristics, based on such factors as athletic or artistic ability; urban, suburban or rural background; demonstrated commitment to public service; attendance at public, private or religious high schools; and ethnic and racial backgrounds. All of this is done to create a diverse student body.

The Justice Department memo noted that the anti-affirmative action project will be run out of the Civil Rights Division’s front office, comprised of Trump administration political appointees, rather than its Educational Opportunities Section, which is staffed by career civil servants who normally deal with issues involving schools and universities. This suggests that the entire scheme is designed as a political gesture to Trump’s base of conservative white supporters who view affirmative action as a form of reverse discrimination.

Candice Jackson, acting head of the Department of Education’s Office for Civil Rights (who would certainly play a key role in the administration’s attack on affirmative action), once complained that she was discriminated against for being white while she was a student at Stanford.

But an even more egregious form of discrimination is the kind of class privilege that allowed a second-rate student like Trump to get into Wharton, depriving a more deserving but less well-connected student a spot in that elite institution. Now, as president, he wants to deprive tens of thousands of truly worthy students the opportunity to overcome disadvantages and become our nation’s future leaders.

Peter Dreier is professor of politics and chair of the Urban & Environmental Policy Department at Occidental College. His most recent book is “The 100 Greatest Americans of the 20th Century: A Social Justice Hall of Fame” (Nation Books).

Google’s new search protocol is restricting access to 13 leading socialist, progressive and anti-war web sites

2 August 2017

New data compiled by the World Socialist Web Site, with the assistance of other Internet-based news outlets and search technology experts, proves that a massive loss of readership observed by socialist, anti-war and progressive web sites over the past three months has been caused by a cumulative 45 percent decrease in traffic from Google searches.

The drop followed the implementation of changes in Google’s search evaluation protocols. In a statement issued on April 25, Ben Gomes, the company’s vice president for engineering, stated that Google’s update of its search engine would block access to “offensive” sites, while working to surface more “authoritative content.”

The World Socialist Web Site has obtained statistical data from SEMrush estimating the decline of traffic generated by Google searches for 13 sites with substantial readerships. The results are as follows:

* wsws.org fell by 67 percent
* alternet.org fell by 63 percent
* globalresearch.ca fell by 62 percent
* consortiumnews.com fell by 47 percent
* socialistworker.org fell by 47 percent
* mediamatters.org fell by 42 percent
* commondreams.org fell by 37 percent
* internationalviewpoint.org fell by 36 percent
* democracynow.org fell by 36 percent
* wikileaks.org fell by 30 percent
* truth-out.org fell by 25 percent
* counterpunch.org fell by 21 percent
* theintercept.com fell by 19 percent

Of the 13 web sites on the list, the World Socialist Web Site has been the most heavily affected. Its traffic from Google searches has fallen by two thirds.

The new statistics demonstrate that the WSWS is a central target of Google’s censorship campaign. In the twelve months preceding the implementation of the new Google protocols, the WSWS had experienced a substantial increase in readership. A significant component of this increase was the product of Google search results. The rapid rise in search traffic reflected the well-documented growth in popular interest in socialist politics during 2016. The rate of growth accelerated following the November election, which led to large protests against the election of Trump.

Search traffic to the WSWS peaked in April 2017, precisely at the point when Google began the implementation of its censorship protocols.

Another site affected by Google’s action has provided information that confirms the findings of the WSWS.

“In late May, changes to Google’s algorithm negatively impacted the volume of traffic to the Common Dreams website from organic Google searches,” said Aaron Kaufman, director of development at progressive news outlet Common Dreams. “Since May, traffic from Google Search as a percentage of total traffic to the Common Dreams website has decreased nearly 50 percent.”

The extent and impact of Google’s actions prove that a combination of techniques is being employed to block access to targeted sites. These involve the direct flagging and blackballing of the WSWS and the other 12 sites listed above by Google evaluators. These sites are assigned a highly negative rating that assures that their articles will be either demoted or entirely bypassed. In addition, new programming technology teaches the computers to think like the evaluators, that is, to emulate their preferences and prejudices.

Finally, the precision of this operation strongly suggests that there is an additional range of exclusion techniques involving the selection of terms, words, phrases and topics that are associated with socialist and left-wing websites.

This would explain why the World Socialist Web Site, which focuses on issues such as war, geopolitics, social inequality and working class struggles has experienced such a dramatic fall in Google-generated searches on these very topics. We have seen that the very terms and phrases that would under normal circumstances be most likely to generate the highest level of hits—such as “socialism,” “Marxism” and “Trotskyism”—produce the lowest results.

This is an ongoing process in which one can expect that Google evaluators are continuously adding suspect terms to make their algorithm ever more precise, with the eventual goal of eliminating traffic to the WSWS and other targeted sites.

The information that has been gathered and published by the WSWS during the past week exposes that Google is at the center of a corporate-state conspiracy to drastically curtail democratic rights. The attack on free speech and uncensored access to information is aimed at crippling popular opposition to social inequality, war and authoritarianism.

The central and sinister role of Google in this process demonstrates that freedom of speech and thought is incompatible with corporate control of the Internet.

As we continue our exposure of Google’s assault on democratic rights, we demand that it immediately and unequivocally halt and revoke its censorship program.

It is critical that a coordinated campaign be organized within the United States and internationally against Google’s censorship of the Internet. We intend to do everything in our power to develop and contribute to a counter-offensive against its efforts to suppress freedom of speech and thought.

The fight against corporate-state censorship of the Internet is central to the defense of democratic rights, and there must be a broad-based collaboration among socialist, left and progressive websites to alert the public and the widest sections of the working class.

Andre Damon and David North

http://www.wsws.org/en/articles/2017/08/02/pers-a02.html

Why the Myth of Meritocracy Hurts Kids of Color

A new study finds that believing society is fair can lead disadvantaged adolescents to act out and engage in risky behavior.

An abandoned, boarded up building in Chicago that two years before this photo was taken housed a school that was later closed
This Chicago campus was shuttered in 2013 as part of a rash of school closures that disproportionately affected poor black and Latino children.Jim Young / Reuters

MELINDA D. ANDERSON

JUL 27, 2017

Brighton Park is a predominantly Latino community on the southwest side of Chicago. It’s a neighborhood threatened by poverty, gang violenceICE raids, and isolation—in a city where income, race, and zip code can determine access to jobs, schools, healthy food, and essential services. It is against this backdrop that the Chicago teacher Xian Franzinger Barrett arrived at the neighborhood’s elementary school in 2014.

Recognizing the vast economic and racial inequalities his students faced, he chose what some might consider a radical approach for his writing and social-studies classes, weaving in concepts such as racism, classism, oppression, and prejudice. Barrett said it was vital to reject the oft-perpetuated narrative that society is fair and equal to address students’ questions and concerns about their current conditions. And Brighton Elementary’s seventh- and eighth-graders quickly put the lessons to work—confronting the school board over inequitable funding, fighting to install a playground, and creating a classroom library focused on black and Latino authors.

“Students who are told that things are fair implode pretty quickly in middle school as self-doubt hits them,” he said, “and they begin to blame themselves for problems they can’t control.”

Barrett’s personal observation is validated by a newly published study in the peer-reviewed journal Child Development that finds traditionally marginalized youth who grew up believing in the American ideal that hard work and perseverance naturally lead to success show a decline in self-esteem and an increase in risky behaviors during their middle-school years. The research is considered the first evidence linking preteens’ emotional and behavioral outcomes to their belief in meritocracy, the widely held assertion that individual merit is always rewarded.

“If you’re in an advantaged position in society, believing the system is fair and that everyone could just get ahead if they just tried hard enough doesn’t create any conflict for you … [you] can feel good about how [you] made it,” said Erin Godfrey, the study’s lead author and an assistant professor of applied psychology at New York University’s Steinhardt School. But for those marginalized by the system—economically, racially, and ethnically—believing the system is fair puts them in conflict with themselves and can have negative consequences.

If the system is fair, why am I seeing that everybody who has brown skin is in this kind of job? You’re having to think about that … like you’re not as good, or your social group isn’t as good,” Godfrey said. “That’s the piece … that I was trying to really get at [by studying] these kids.”

The findings build upon a body of literature on “system justification”—a social-psychology theory that believes humans tend to defend, bolster, or rationalize the status quo and see overarching social, economic, and political systems as good, fair, and legitimate. System justification is a distinctively American notion, Godfrey said, built on myths used to justify inequities, like “If you just work hard enough you can pull yourself up by your bootstraps … it’s just a matter of motivation and talent and grit.” Yet, as she and her colleagues discovered, these beliefs can be a liability for disadvantaged adolescents once their identity as a member of a marginalized group begins to gel—and once they become keenly aware of how institutional discrimination disadvantages them and their group.

Researchers measured system-justifying beliefs among 257 students from an urban, public middle school in Arizona. All of the students’ families were identified as low-income, as defined by their eligibility for free or reduced-price lunches. The vast majority of the sample—91 percent—were also students of color: Fifty-five percent Latino, 18 percent black, 11 percent Native American, and 7 percent other nonwhite youth. Additionally, the area, populated by many immigrant families and children, was experiencing social and political unrest due to Senate Bill 1070, a controversial Arizona law that in its original form criminalized undocumented people in the state.

Godfrey asked the sixth-graders to rate their endorsement of the “American Dream” and system-justifying ideas—namely, that America is the land of opportunity where everyone who works hard has an equal chance to succeed. Youth were then asked to rate themselves on various qualities, including their self-esteem, risky behaviors (“stayed out all night without your parent’s permission,” “cheated on school tests,” etc.), and perceived discrimination (for example: “How often have others suspected you of doing something wrong because of your ethnicity?” and “How often have the police hassled you because of your ethnicity?”).

At three points over the course of middle school, the youth rated their self-esteem, behavior, and experience with discrimination. The results revealed an alarming trajectory. In sixth grade, among students who believed the system is fair, self-esteem was high and risky behavior was rare; by the end of seventh grade, these same students reported lower self-esteem and more risky behaviors—with no significant differences based on race, ethnicity, gender, or immigration generation (youth from newly arrived immigrant families and native-born counterparts).

What’s more, for youth who perceived more discrimination from an early age, system-justifying beliefs were associated with less-risky behavior in sixth grade, but with a sharp rise in such behaviors by seventh grade. Godfrey attributes this spike to a “perfect storm” in which marginalized young people are experiencing more discrimination; beginning to understand the systemic and institutionalized nature of that discrimination; and starting to strongly identify as a member of a marginalized group, seeing that group as one that’s being discriminated against. As for why this leads to more risky behavior, Godfrey points to research that suggests people who really believe the system is fair internalize stereotypes—believing and acting out false and negative claims about their group—more readily than those who disavow these views.

And while it’s easy to attribute the increase in risky behavior to  developmental changes such as puberty, the fact that the students’ outcomes started high in the sixth grade and then deteriorated suggests that psychosocial phenomena are at play.

“I do think that there’s this element of people think of me this way anyway, so this must be who I am,” Godfrey said, adding that the behaviors—things like stealing and sneaking out—reflect stereotypes perpetuated about youth of color. “If you’re [inclined] to believe that things are the way they should be, and [that] the system is fair, then you’re maybe going to accept stereotypes about you more easily.”

While the sample was relatively small, Godfrey said the findings are informative and mirror prior research. Indeed, previous analyses have found that system-justifying beliefs are associated with lower self-esteem in black adults and lower grade-point averages for Latino college students—though the same beliefs predicted better grades and less distress for “high status” youth.

“I was really interested in trying to think of [early adolescents] as active agents in their world,” Godfrey said, “and as people who can understand and interpret their social world in a way that a lot of research doesn’t recognize.”

David Stovall, professor of educational-policy studies and African American studies at University of Illinois at Chicago, said the paper is a confirmation of decades of analysis on the education of marginalized and isolated youth. It’s a “good preliminary piece” that lays the foundation for more academic study of historically disenfranchised adolescents and their motivations, he said.

“If young folks see themselves being discriminated against, they’ve been told that a system is fair, and they experience things that are unfair, they will begin to reject this particular system and engage in behaviors that will not be to their betterment,” he explained. Stovall said it’s critical to guide young people from “defiant resistance”—defying what they’ve learned to be untrue regarding a just and fair system for all—to “transformative resistance”—developing a critical understanding of the historical context of U.S. society. Educators, he said, play a crucial role in this work.

“We have to ask different questions around school,” he said. “Does [school] contribute further to our [students’] marginalization and oppression? Is it just about order, compliance, and white normative standards that marginalized young folks of color don’t measure up to because the structure never intended for them to measure up?” He also warned educators and youth of color to be prepared for pushback, highlighting the current legal battle over the ethnic-studies ban in Tucson public schools despite its proven academic benefits.

Mildred Boveda, an assistant education professor at Arizona State University, likewise said the findings hold important implications for both teachers and teacher education. “This is of great consequence to … teachers who may think they are protecting children by avoiding conversations about systems of oppressions,” she said, emphasizing that the onus is also on teacher-prep programs to ensure aspiring educators know how to address these controversial topics.

Given her recent experience teaching fifth-graders in Miami-Dade, Florida, Boveda disagrees with the researchers’ notion that sixth-graders lack a full understanding of social hierarchies. Her students on the brink of middle school, she noted, were hyper-aware of social inequalities. Still, she sees valuable insights in the data.

“Unlike the majority of the teaching workforce, I once fit the demographics of the students in this study,” she said, alluding to the fact that more than 80 percent of public-school teachers are white. “I will admit that it sometimes felt risky to tackle these difficult conversations, but this [research] underscores why we cannot equivocate when it comes to preparing our children to face injustices.”

https://www.theatlantic.com/education/archive/2017/07/internalizing-the-myth-of-meritocracy/535035/?utm_source=atlfb

Harvard Psychiatrist: How Trump’s Speech Was Toxic For Boy Scouts Beyond ‘Rhetoric’

President Trump waves to the crowd of scouts at the 2017 National Boy Scout Jamboree at the Summit in Glen Jean,W. Va., on Monday. (Steve Helber/AP)

“A Scout is Trustworthy, Loyal, Helpful, Friendly, Courteous, Kind, Obedient, Cheerful, Thrifty, Brave, Clean, and Reverent.”

– 12 Points of the Boy Scout Law

The head of the Boy Scouts of America publicly apologized Thursday for the “political rhetoric” in President Trump’s keynote speech at the scouts’ Jamboree, saying that “We sincerely regret that politics were inserted into the Scouting program” and affirming Scout values that include “fairness, courage, honor and respect for others.”

The carefully worded statement suggests that the Scout leadership heard loud and clear the complaints from parents who were offended by a speech that sounded much like one of Trump’s campaign rallies: slogans, promotion of a political agenda, cutting remarks about his opponents.

But as a senior child and adolescent psychiatrist and advocate for healthy youth development, I’m concerned that the leadership may still not get just how bad this speech was for the tens of thousands of Scouts who heard it, cheered it, chanted “We love Trump!” I feel a professional obligation to share my understanding of the risks this kind of “political rhetoric” poses for our children.

The speech came in a particularly dangerous context: among a huge crowd of young boys, a captive and highly receptive audience that was particularly vulnerable to being influenced by the toxic traits the president consistently demonstrates: his insatiable desire to be adored, his demands for unconditional loyalty, his obsession with winning, and his need to devalue anyone he perceives as a threat.

Boy Scouts range in age from 6-8 (Beavers) to 14-18 (Explorers). While this range is considerable, boys from 6-18 have many things developmentally in common. Namely:

  • Their brains are still in the process of development, and, during these years, are more likely influenced by emotion rather than reason or logic;
  • they are drawn to powerful male role models and often follow them with passion;
  • they are significantly influenced by a strong desire to be part of a group, regardless of its moral intent;
  • they are fiercely loyal to each other — and their leaders.

Trump played on all these qualities, even as his rambling speech was largely directed toward complex issues many of these kids were hardly likely to understand.

He boasted about his record on energy, jobs, health care, his victory in the Electoral College, and the “record” size of the crowd in front of him. He threatened to fire his own health secretary if a health care bill did not pass. He also implied that he could use more Scout-style loyalty, a veiled reference to the attorney general likely lost on most of the Scouts in the audience.

Trump promoted the loyalty of the boys themselves, noting that the Scouts “never, ever, let us down” and that “You can count on me, and we can count on you,” just like we count on the military, police and firefighters. In fact, he continued, we just launched the “newest, largest” aircraft carrier in the world — named after an Eagle Scout, President Ford. And this ship, he stressed, is “feared and revered” because of its power, prestige and strength.

The subtext of this comment is actually Trump talking about himself, telling the boys: If you are loyal to me, if you stand with me, you, too, will be feared and revered, powerful and successful. Be like me, boys! You, too, will succeed. This invitation for them to identify with him is called projective identification in psychiatry, and is particularly compelling to youth.

He also told the boys a story of his idol, Harry Levitt, a self-made millionaire in real estate. Levitt had it all — money, power, a yacht. But in the end, he “failed badly and went bankrupt.” So, Trump continued, after seeing him at a New York cocktail party “with all the hottest people in New York,” it was sad because Levitt had lost his “momentum.”

Then Trump offered a litany of his own momentum and victories — from the booming economy, to the election surprises, to the fact that everyone underestimated his power and persistence. “What we did,” he said, “was unbelievable, thanks to you and the millions and millions of people that came out and voted to Make America Great Again!” (Boy Scouts are too young to vote, of course, but he spoke as if they had.)

Trump also devalued President Obama, noting his predecessor had never attended a Boy Scout Jamboree. He derided Hillary Clinton for losing in Michigan, prompting boos against her from the crowd. He devalued the media and “fake news.” He devalued all those who said he could not win the presidency in the first place.

So what is the big deal about this speech? Several issues:

  • It models seeing the world and people in it as either good or bad, while in reality we want our kids to see shades of gray and understand nuances.
  • It promotes individual winning as opposed to shared group effort for greater good.
  • It models devaluing and badmouthing those who disagree instead of listening and conversing.
  • It promotes distrust of our models of freedom, such as the free press.
  • It glorifies material wealth and social status above higher values, while promoting the glory of being feared and revered, not loved and respected.

The big deal is that Trump’s speech smacked of indoctrination. It had the potential to capture the developmentally normal aspirations of young boys and teenagers to idealize a “successful hero,” and band together for his mission of winning, of defying adversity. But then it subverted those natural aspirations, toward all the issues listed above.

Trump’s behavior in his first six months of office does not qualify as courteous, kind or any of the other Scout Law qualities. We, as adults, know this, but many of the Boy Scouts at the Jamboree did not.

So what can a concerned parent do?

  • Ask open-ended questions about a child’s reaction to the speech. Do not assume indoctrination or any response, but see how your child reacts.
  • Watch the speech with your Scout after the event. Converse about what is going on during various parts of the speech. This technique allows for starting and stopping the speech to interact, correct false claims, and open conversations with your child. And through a process like this, perhaps suggest other role models you feel are more appropriate.
  • Do not be concerned about stating your opinion about what is being said or about why Trump is making this speech.

Our children are inevitably being influenced by Trump’s behavior. We cannot stop that influence, but we can at least act to offset the damage it could do to their young hearts and minds.

Dr. Gene Beresin is executive director of The MGH Clay Center for Young Healthy Minds and a professor of psychiatry at Harvard Medical School. The observations expressed here are solely those of Dr. Beresin and do not represent Harvard Medical School or Massachusetts General Hospital.

WBUR

‘Dunkirk’ Avoids Politics and Melodrama to Deliver a Powerful Human Survival Story

Posted on Jul 22, 2017

By Allen Barra

  A scene from Christopher Nolan’s “Dunkirk.” (Screen shot via YouTube)

Read Allen Barra’s piece on the historical context of the Dunkirk evacuation here.

If you go to see Christopher Nolan’s “Dunkirk” expecting a war movie—or even an antiwar movie—you’re going to be disappointed. Nolan has said it himself in an interview: “I don’t see it as a war film, I see it as a survival story.”

The battle and evacuation of Dunkirk in 1940 is the greatest story to come out of World War II, and, amazingly, it has been given very little cinematic attention. It was the backdrop for the 1942 Greer Garson vehicle, “Mrs. Miniver,” directed by William Wyler. There was a competent 1958 British production, “Dunkirk,” directed by Leslie Norman, with John Mills, Richard Attenborough and Bernard Lee as the journalist around whom the story is framed. Dunkirk’s most effective rendering was in Joe Wright’s “Atonement,” with James McAvoy as a Tommy (a British soldier) stranded on the beach, staring across the English Channel.

Nolan’s film is not only different from any other ever made on the subject. It’s different from any other film connected to war. If Sir Richard Attenborough had made the movie, it would have been respectable, ponderous and laced with a strong dose of stiff upper lip. If made by Spielberg, it would be painted in broad strokes with primary colors and bolstered with nostalgia and Eisenhower-era patriotism. If directed by the Michael Bay of “Pearl Harbor” … let’s not go there.

Nolan’s “Dunkirk” eschews politics and practically leaves out the point of view of the enemy altogether. (There is scarcely a single close-up of a German soldier in the entire film.) Instead of laboring to make the point that the Germans are people just like us—or would be under the proper circumstances—as in “The Longest Day” or “Saving Private Ryan,” Nolan subtly makes the point that despair, courage and hope aren’t national but human characteristics.

The film opens with a handful of British soldiers walking down the deserted streets of what we quickly learn is the village of Dunkirk. Leaflets are falling from the sky. They are German propaganda with a map showing how hopelessly surrounded the British and still-resisting French were. The actual leaflet the Germans dropped featured the message “La guerre est finie pour vous!” (The war is finished for you). This ingenious device tells the viewer exactly where the soldiers are and what their situation is.

The scene turns out to be just one of three intertwined narratives which ultimately come together to tell the whole story of the battle and evacuation. It’s a device Nolan has used in several of his films, but here it does not seem strained or pretentious. “Dunkirk” may be the first time Nolan has relegated his technique to the service of the material.

And the material needs no artificial embellishment. The story of how hundreds of fishermen, ferry captains, yachtsmen and tugboat skippers rescued more than 335,000 men seems almost incredible. Nolan nudges, rather than pushes, the story along. There is a minimum of dialogue.

The great Tom Hardy as a Spitfire pilot has perhaps six lines to speak and does most of his acting with his eyes and facial muscles. Mark Rylance, the 2016 Best Supporting Actor Oscar winner for “Bridge of Spies,” plays the owner of a small yacht who embarks on the rescue mission with his young son aboard and conveys his emotions in hushed tones that draw one’s ear closer.

Nolan directs without hyperbole. There is surprisingly little action in “Dunkirk,” but the suspense is so heightened that you may not realize it until the film is over. Hans Zimmer, who has dealt out his share of schlock for “Batman v Superman” and one of the “Pirates of the Caribbean” movies, seems inspired when he scores for Nolan. His spare, throbbing background sounds are less music and more an aural rendering of the characters’ subconscious. He may be the first composer capable of reflecting the collective subconscious of hundreds of thousands.

“Dunkirk” may be the first movie about a battle that cuts through the barriers of class and nationality. It’s the first I’ve ever seen about death and survival that doesn’t manipulate audience emotions but connects them with the emotion inherent in the story.

truthdig

The End of the American Experiment

It’s Over. So What Can the World Learn?

It’s safe to say, I think, that the American experiment is at an end. No, America might not be finished as in civil war and secession. But it is clearly at an end in three ways.

First, to the world, as a serious democracy. Second, to itself, as a nation with dignity and self-respect. Third, its potential lies in ruins. Even if authoritarianism is toppled tomorrow, the problems of falling life expectancy, an imploding middle class, skyrocketing inequality, and so on, won’t be.

Now, like many fallen nations, maybe America won’t learn much from the failure of its own experiment — but history and the world surely can. So what has the experiment disproven? What was the null hypothesis?

We don’t have to look very far. What does America not have that the rest of the rich world does? Public healthcare, transport, education, and so on. Every single rich nation in the world has sophisticated, broad, and expansive public goods, that improve by the year. Today, even many medium income and even poor nations are building public healthcare, transport, etc. America is the only one that never developed any. Public goods protect societies in deep, profound, invisible ways (we’ll get to that).

First, here is the really curious thing. American leaders are pretending like the relationship above is a great, confounding mystery. Like dumbfounded dinosaurs watching the mushroom cloud engulf the land, never — not once — in American media will you read a column, hear a voice, or see a face discussing the above. It has never happened a single time in my adult lifetime as far as I can remember. Yet the relationship couldn’t be any more obvious, clear, or striking: no public goods are what uniquely separates America, the uniquely failed state, from the rest of the world.

Why is that? It would be easy for me to say that public goods represent some kind of a hard-fought compromise between left and right. But I think there is a social truth greater that is far more substantial than the surface political reality.

Working societies — if they are to endure, grow, and cohere, if they are to prosper, hang together, and really mature — need moral universals. Moral universals are simply things that people believe everyone should have. In the UK, those things — those moral universals — are healthcare and media and welfare. In Germany, they are healthcare and media and welfare and higher education. And so on.

Moral universals anchor a society in a genuinely shared prosperity. Not just because they “spread the wealth”, though they do: because, more deeply, moral universals civilize people. They are what let people grow to become sane, humane, intelligent human beings. A person that is desperate for a meal will resort to whatever they must to feed their kids. A person constantly fed a stream of nonsense by Fox News will end up believing the earth is flat. Moral universals let people act morally, and acting morally is what the process of civilization is.

Democracy therefore depends on moral universals. It is probably fairly hard, in the scope of human history, to establish a democracy. But it is harder still to keep it going. A democracy requires, before it demands votes, sane, humane, civilized people to vote. A society that cannot create sane, humane, civilized people can therefore no more reasonably stay a democracy than a global economy can be powered by fossil fuels forever. At some point, without moral universals to create citizens worthy of the word, democracy runs out of gas.

So: what really went wrong in America? Moral universals civilize people, but there aren’t any moral universals. The public goods universals result in educate, inform, train, school people, let them live long and peaceful lives. But Americans — whether it is today’s extremists or yesterday’s slave-auctioneers and owners — believe that moral universals are just a “cost”, a “tax”, and so forth. They have never seen — and still don’t see — the benefits: the civilizing process that democracy depends vitally on.

Thus, in America today, there are no broad, genuine, or accessible civilizing mechanisms left. As a simple example, America’s best universities churn out…hedge-fund traders. It’s economy is largely composed of…paper gains to the .01%. It’s media debates…climate change. And so on. The natural consequence of failing to civilize is breaking down as a democracy — democracy no longer exists in the sense of “people cooperating by voting to give each other greater prosperity”. They have merely learned to take prosperity away from one another. Whether by denying one another doctors, schools, trains, and so on. That is what a lack of civilization really results in, or to put more prosaically, there is no sanity or humanity, much less reason, wisdom, or virtue in such decisions — only nihilism, fatalism, and despair.

And that is what the end of the American experiment proves. Without moral universals, there is no process of civilization, and democracy itself can no longer continue to grow and develop. The painful irony is that American intellectuals are concerned about Western civilization. LOL. The West, such as it is, will be just fine: it is America where civilization, as a verb, a process, a way of moral being in the world, has broken down.

Even prisons have moral universals. There is only one other place in the world I can think of with none. A jungle.

Umair
July 2017

View story at Medium.com