The Citizen Thinker: A Celebration of Unqualified Discourse

college (640x427)It is a fact that most people do not possess doctorates. This is probably a good thing for America, because today there appears to be a corollary between high levels of academic education and disastrously poor thinking. A degree from a well-known university still may be a fast way to get into certain professions; but the possession of a degree no longer means what it once did, that its possessor is truly educated. Many people, including employers, no longer trust university degrees as they once did, equating the diploma with useful knowledge. This depends of course on what major is taken. But the degree itself no longer guarantees that the holder is truly educated.

Tradition over a thousand or more years holds that the purpose of a university education is to develop the discipline of learning itself. This was the model for the Liberal Arts, having nothing to do with Liberal ideology. In the classical model of the university education, one was trained to think critically by analyzing the meaning of events and great ideas through careful study. This was guided by teachers who possessed wisdom and experience, who were respected not for their allegiance to a set of dogma, but for their ability to invite debate and discussion, once considered vital to discourse on a university campus. Freedom of thought and the challenge provided by disagreement and honest argument were the fertile ground in which generations of wise human beings developed, thrashing out the pros and cons of contrasting ideas and world views. Each subsequent generation was expected to contribute to the spread of ideas with their own innovative and original contributions.

But that no longer proves to be the case. Nowadays, free thought is locked out and conformity is locked in. No longer the bastion of Liberal Arts, many of today’s once great universities have traded Liberal Arts for Leftist dogma, Liberal Indoctrination instead of Liberal Arts. Common sense is evaporating at an alarming rate from the campuses of US universities, where Political Correctness has replaced justice and doctrinaire lies have replaced truth. Cries of “Check your privilege!” replace learning based in actual historical context.

Even the subject matter being taught has descended in value.

Is “gender studies” a legitimate discipline with a large body of scholarly work to be added to by way of dissertations based on serious research?

What about feminism and gay studies? Is there a thousand-year history from which to draw conclusions about the field and to contribute to it materially?

The daughter of a friend of mine majored in environmental art at Harvard. When I asked what that was exactly, he shrugged. “Who knows?” he said. “It’s from Harvard, so who cares?”

Are these even disciplines or merely very small—dare I say insignificant— parts of the study of history or criticism? Can in depth study of gender even be worth $30,000 or $40,000 tuition per year? I may be wrong, but to me these seem like little more than exercises in egotistical laziness, and the only profession in which it can be considered of any value is that of academe. So can we look at this as a kind of intellectual incest, in which one generation of professors propagate nonsense in their successor, all of whom will be locked in the confines of a university ivory tower? What is the study of feminism compared, say, to philosophy or history, art or music, literature or drama?

We appear to be living in a time when, to become truly educated, one has to rely on educating oneself by reading and analyzing, and learning through discussion with others for whom enlightenment is equally important, but ad hoc, not on a controlled college campus. There are opportunities outside the university campus for debate, with questions and answers carefully ruminated and understood without the need for sitting in the stifling bubble among the captive audience of an expensive university cauldron. Maybe there will even be a time when a university degree is completely disregarded in favor of a demonstration of real knowledge, perhaps some kind of a test, an interview in which one is put upon to discuss in detail what one knows about the subject matter on which he will work.

For myself, I have always favored the intelligent amateur, the intellectual whose learning has been the result of a hunger to know, rather than the rigid requirements of some syllabus that includes as much useless pap as it does useful data. Our Founding Fathers were largely self-educated men, which is to say that their love of learning was what they learned and learned early.

A university education is supposed to teach one how to go on learning. But how can one nurture a love of learning when there is so much indoctrination on college and university campuses these days, and so much Political Correctness to stifle open thought and dialog, that the love of learning is lost through fear and pressure. The value of a degree comes with dubious distinction that it is not the result of a love of learning, but of a procession of educational rituals one is put through by doctrinaire eggheads with no more to give than dusty paradigms long proven unworkable!

Citizen journalism is rapidly replacing the collective chant of an atrophied mainstream media. Perhaps it is time for people to think for themselves, to weigh the pros and cons, the worth and disvalue of certain ideas being thrust at us by an academic class whose value is nearing an end because its ideas are dead and their preaching scolds no longer respected by people of common sense. Especially with the power of the internet, self-education is eminently possible and in this regard self-educated Citizen Intellectuals may be the future. An educated common man may very well restore sanity and common sense to our culture.

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A Proposal for the Model Public School

Frank black and whiteThere was a time in America when, if one graduated from an ordinary high school, he got a very substantial education in the process. He could read, write research papers, do fairly advanced math, and clearly communicate with others. His opportunities expanded among potential employers and, if he was able to go on to higher education, with college professors. But that era is gone.

Now, the public schools in the US, especially in the inner city, are in real trouble. My wife is a high school English Literature teacher in an urban public school. Many of her students cannot read on a fourth grade level, much less write comprehensible sentences, and constructing logical, cogent paragraphs is mostly beyond them. My wife is an extraordinary teacher and has managed to teach some of them to construct a persuasive essay, but this has been an arduous task taking months.

Yet, teachers are vilified in the media so that their strength, which lies in teaching students, has been seriously and negatively impacted by political correctness and a litigious mindset among parents and the public in general. The fix for this undesirable situation does not lie in Dewey-modeled “education reforms” of the sort proposed by the so-called experts, whose idea is to dumb down education or to advocate radically increased standardized testing to support fictitious statistics and keep their overgrown budgets.

In the pernicious interests of Political Correctness practices are imposed on teachers which strangle their initiative and motivation, but they are threatened not to have high failing rates, lest their paychecks suffer. All this as though it were the fault of the teachers that students fail. In the system where my wife teaches, it is common practice to give students a minimum average grade of 50% even if they rarely show up to class or have real grades of 15% or even 0% as in the case of one student.

Teachers are told that, if attacked physically by a student, they are NOT allowed to defend themselves, on pain of losing their jobs. Instead, are told they will receive large benefits for the abuse they tolerate. If we are to restore sanity to the classroom, we must:

  1. Get the big money out of education.
  2. Get the Federal Government out of education.
  3. Get rid of most of the useless and expensive bureaucracy.
  4. Get rid of Political Correctness and replace it with order and civility.

These changes will not be made by the existing establishment, who, like the Federal and State bureaucracies themselves, will continue to feed off the carcass of a dying system until it is nothing but bare bones. Then where will the hope of our children’s education lie?

Changes must come from a co-operative network of teachers, parents, and students, who want a future, a universal movement among teaching professionals and other parties in support of the restoration of traditional American public education along the following principles.

First, public education should be essentially not-for-profit. While private enterprise may provide textbooks, technology and other educational support, no authority, including control of content, should be exerted by any private organization, corporation or other such entity in public education.

Second, all public education must remain local. No national or state entity may control either the standards or content of material taught in the classroom. This must remain in the control of local authorities, including local school boards, PTAs and like organizations whose sole interest is in providing quality education to public school students. The power to educate is the power to indoctrinate, a power too easily abused by politicians on every level. It must be kept in the control of teachers, local administrators and parents immediately concerned with local school issues. Teachers should take an integral part in executing such authority. There must be no national curriculum, the content of which is controlled on any level by government.

Third, the public education should be Teacher-Student-Parent centered. The process of Education is a 200% relationship of teacher to student, each putting in 100% effort, dedication, and commitment. The student seeks learning; the teacher offers the tools to learn. In this regard, the teacher is the incontrovertible core of the learning relationship. Administrators must be secondary, always acting to support the Teacher-Student unit. Outside consultants, educational philosophers and those seeking grant money to write about education, especially when they have had no direct classroom experience, should be entirely excluded. Ideas are always welcome, but they must support the concept of traditional education, which has proven for centuries to be the most workable system.

This is based on the assumption that teachers are committed and dedicated to maintaining the highest principles in the delivery of educational methods and practices. We recognize that there will be situations in which a teacher may deviate from strict adherence to traditional practice, but the purpose of any and all lessons must be to educate students toward the highest levels of knowledge, ethics and morality. Students are not experiments or laboratory creatures.

Fourth, we must recognize and encourage the role of parents and taxpayers in all phases of education, providing that role does not interfere with the traditional process of educating students, but instead ensures adherence to the established guidelines. When parents fail to take an active role with their students and teachers, they should be called to account. We must reject and abhor the practice of litigating grades. Grades must be based entirely on the performance of the student as he/she follows the study plans provided to him in the classroom by the teacher.

Fifth, it must be recognized that the classroom is not a democracy. The teacher must be in authority at all times and students must be respectful of that authority. Too often, the teacher is unprotected in adversary discussions with parents and other agents. The job of the principal and other administrative staff should always be to protect the teacher from unfair treatment. Likewise, the principle or agents of the principle must also safeguard the interests of the student and to maintain fairness in dealings between teachers and students or parents.

Order must be restored to the classroom in the form of civility, common courtesy and classroom etiquette. Rules for conduct must be clearly established from the outset and students must be held to standards of behavior. Those students who do not comply with established standards should be disciplined without exception. Where applicable, school dress codes must be considered part of the rules.

We must return to teaching and imparting the basics: basic civility, core knowledge, and core facts about America, including American Exceptionalism, thus restoring traditional American values to American education.

Sixth, we must return to a vertical plan that is developed by teachers and includes realistic goals at all grade levels. These goals should include Standard English grammar and composition, basic arithmetic and mathematics, fact-based world and American history (not politically correct or interpreted versions in which facts are ignored and bias introduced to create false narratives) and factual rather than “consensus” science. This vertical plan may be universal, but not federally mandated, controlled or influenced.

Last, we must recognize that teaching is equally a calling and a profession. An effort must be made to restore respect and dignity to the profession of teaching, thus encouraging once again a desire to enter that profession which we consider so noble.

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A Request from Dana R. Casey for Material for Her New Book

DanaRCaseyI am a veteran high school English teacher with more than two decades in an east coast urban school system. I’ve taught in some of the best schools and some of the worst, and I can tell you unequivocally that education in America is in a terrible state. It is worse than most realize, especially in our urban systems in which regulations stifle the efforts of teachers to teach, where Political Correctness stifles content being taught, and where bad behavior too often impedes the process of learning for students, especially for the many sincere ones who genuinely want to learn. If we do not fix these problems, and fix them fast, maintaining the republic will become almost impossible, because, as Madison said, “The advancement and diffusion of knowledge is the only guardian of true liberty.

Many believe that they have the solutions for fixing our schools. But, Democrats have it wrong; Republicans have it wrong; Pearson Education has it wrong; the average American has it wrong. Education has become a battleground and teachers are in the trenches with no cavalry on the horizon. Teachers have become so vilified in today’s environment that few Americans have thought of reaching out to those on the front line to discover the real problems and the real solutions.  Combat Diaries attempts to expose the realities as seen by one teacher, but experienced by many on the front lines of urban education in America.

I will be using many of my articles published on, and as a starting point. These will be expanded through research. From that point, I plan to expand into other areas of fundamental concern. For instance, I want to address the concept of “Keeping It Real or Making It Real” which challenges how narratives like those found in Walter Dean Myer’s popular books teach students as young as 6th grade that drug addiction, sexual activity, and suicide are societal norms, a dangerous lesson. I also intend to include historical data to examine the process of how public education is rapidly becoming a system of ideological indoctrination replacing of the free exchange and examination of ideas in the search for true learning.

As intelligent teachers you know that evidence from only one source (in this case me) is not strong, so I need evidence from others to strengthen the arguments. I need anecdotes that can be added to the topics listed below. Additionally, though it is tempting to only provide negative examples, examples of when things work are needed too. For instance, there are many tragic stories of the failure of special education inclusion (see The Tyranny of the Minority), but there are also times when it works. Anecdotes of both instances will make a stronger argument.

I know that teachers are often afraid to speak up and, in spite of the myth that we have an iron shield of tenure around us, administration can easily punish us by making our work lives so miserable that we will be driven out of our professions. There is also a fear of violating privacy policies. I promise complete anonymity to those who want it. I will never mention a school or a school district, but will only mention whether the school is in an urban, suburban, or rural area. I will also maintain privacy by asking teachers to NEVER provide a student’s name. I will create names for anecdotes, so only “Girl 1” or “Boy 2” as example should be used in anecdotes sent to me.

In advance I want to extend my gratitude to anyone willing to share their stories. I will gladly acknowledge any contribution as little or as much as each contributor desires. Hang tough my fellow teachers; life in the trenches can be hard and lonely.

Topic Suggestions (in no particular order):

  1. Where is the “money” for education really going? Money does not go to the classrooms or for students.
  2. The Intentional mis-education of students. Revisionist history, removing literature from the English classroom, yearly lowering of standards. Common Core Math
  3. Special Education Inclusion: Fear of lawsuits has made “special” students rule the classroom. Special education students are not getting the services that they need. The other students in the class suffer. Lowest common denominator becomes the norm.
  4. No more honors classes. Students with advanced or superior abilities are being under-served or completely ignored. Bored, unmotivated students.
  5. Rules matter, but too many times students are not expected to follow rules or even basic civil behavior
  6. How fear is the guiding factor of school policy. Fear of parents and students makes teachers unable to teach and classrooms unmanageable
  7. Administrators are more concerned with data than students
  8. The Race Card: Fear of seeming racist has destroyed education for blacks and destroyed most major American cities
  9. Social justice is misplaced and at times insidious “Compassion” destroying students’ ability to advance
  10. Learned helplessness
  11. Fear locked up wood shop, as well as eliminating much of the valuable “vocational training” of the past, that worked so well. NOT EVERYONE IS COLLEGE BOUND. IT ISN’T EVEN A GOOD IDEA!
  12. Throwing out the baby and other proven paradigms lost educational theory proposed by those with no classroom experience (see Arne Duncan) has gutted educators.
  13. Hiring consultants while firing teachers
  14. Teachers get a bad rap from media, but the biggest problem is with unions. Although true representation is not bad — needed sometimes — the unions charged with the responsibility to represent teachers are interested in their own existence and benefits, not in those they supposedly represent. They actually usually fail to support any individual teachers unless that teacher can be used to forward their own agenda. The unions do not care about student learning either.

Dana R. Casey is a veteran high school English teacher of more than two decades in an East-coast urban system.  She is a life-long student of theology, philosophy, and politics, dedicated to the true Liberalism of the Enlightenment, as defined by our Founders and enshrined in our Declaration of Independence, Constitution and Bill of Rights. You can find out more about Dana over at


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