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Photo from National Archives and Record Administration

Photo from National Archives and Record Administration

Last week I published a review of The Narrative of the Life of Frederick Douglass. I received a note from one of our guest writers, FJ Rocca, that included this piece.

Conservatives ought to read the biographies of Frederick Douglass. He wrote three, all of them masterful and articulate to explain, not racism, but the true meaning of freedom. Exemplary is his explanation of the importance of individual self-reliance and self-development, as opposed to the collectivist tendency to rely on others for one’s sustenance, in the case of the slaves, their “masters,” trading in exchange their eternal labors in the chains of a system that denied them the fundamental right to own their bodies and minds. Douglass eloquently describes his path to freedom, which begins when he realizes and develops a deep belief in his own right of self-ownership, exemplified in his teaching himself to read as the door opener to greater self-education, because, as he says, “Once you learn to read, you will be forever free.”

A keen observer of reality and a keener abstractor of the truth, Douglass analyses the tactics of owners to keep their slaves in check. One method, he observes, is to give slaves a holiday from Christmas to New Year’s Day every year, encouraging them to remain drunk the whole time by supplying them with booze. Thus, through their limited pleasure, the slaves were disaffected with the notion of freedom, which would mean that they would have to pay for their own pleasure. The slaves failed to realize that they were indeed paying for their holiday’s pleasure by slaving for the rest of the year. The psychology behind this inducement is undeniable. The more dependent one becomes on a thing, the less he is willing to break away from it, even if it provides only short-term gains, and costs much more in the long term.

On the surface, the holiday granted by slave owners might seem like a positive benefit. But, as Douglass makes clear, the so-called generosity of slave owners is false and deceptive. In reality, it is a tactic slaveholders use to distract slaves from any notions of freedom and thus to keep them from desiring their freedom so much that they do not rebel. On this, Douglass says, “If there is no struggle, there is no progress. Those who profess to favor freedom, and yet depreciate agitation, are men who want crops without plowing up the ground. They want rain without thunder and lightning. They want the ocean without the awful roar of its many waters. This struggle may be a moral one; or it may be a physical one; or it may be both moral and physical; but it must be a struggle.”

The intentions of the welfare state can be accurately compared with the intentions of the slave owners of Frederick Douglass’s day. They pose as generous benefactors by offering what seem like benefits. The psychology behind this inducement is undeniable as was that of the slave owners Douglass describes. The more dependent one becomes on a thing, the less likely he is to exert the effort to break away from it, even if it provides only short-term gains, and costs much more in the long term. Likewise, the welfare state offers its generosity in exchange for support of their programs, hence their power.

The slaves’ Christmas holiday was brief, only a week. But slaves were kept in ignorance. They were mostly illiterate, and were certainly inexperienced with true freedom, hence Douglass’s complaint is that they bought the short term benefit and paid the long price. He says, “I have found that, to make a contented slave, it is necessary to make a thoughtless one. It is necessary to darken his moral and mental vision, and, as far as possible, to annihilate the power of reason.”

Modern Americans are not so quick to trade their long term freedoms, freedoms they have experienced for most of their lives, for short term gains, or so they think. But instead of demanding freedom over government-conferred benefits, they now seem to demand longer term benefits to trade for their freedom. The welfare state overcomes the pesky demand by extending the free “slaves’” holiday to every day, thus providing the enduring motive to support the state, i.e. the government who provides the welfare. They do not take account of the reality that these benefits must be paid for out of the pockets of people who do not receive them. But the State would like us not to realize this. Thus, the government would like to keep us in ignorance, as well. Douglass’s words may be easily applied to the state of American citizens’ awareness. Of the slaves’ ignorance, Douglas says, “He must be able to detect no inconsistencies in slavery; he must be made to feel that slavery is right; and he can be brought to that only when he ceased to be a man.”

A couple of sayings come to mind. One, a Marxist maxim, says “from each man according to his ability, to each man according to his need.” There is another, curiously contradictory Marxist maxim that says, “He who does not work, shall not eat.” That one is never spoken openly at first, but it comes out after the money runs out. And the money WILL run out. The saying that comes to mind thereafter is, “There is no such thing as a free lunch” and that one is true, because the free lunch will last only as long as productive people who provide the wealth seized by the state are willing to produce that wealth. The Soviet Union is a good example of this. In Russia and other USSR states, long lines of people waiting to receive a measured allotment of eggs, bread or meat was the norm. It should be noted that bureaucrats and politicians in the Soviet Union had special stores in which to obtain these goodies without the requisite waiting in queues. The state never denies itself what it imposes on its citizens.

Slaves appreciated the free drunken holiday while disappreciating the requisite labor of the rest of their year, even though a like effort at seizing their freedom would have yielded REAL benefits that would have existed in perpetuity, because they would be self-perpetuating. Likewise, too many Americans are willing to appreciate the falsely free gifts of the state while disappreciating the freedom to pursue their own fortunes, even if such pursuit led to far greater gains than a welfare check could possibly ever provide. But the government hopes to keep its citizens from realizing this, because, as is said, truth, once realized, can and almost always will, set people free, because, as Frederick Douglass says, “Knowledge makes a man unfit to be a slave.”

This brings up perhaps the most appropriate of Douglass’s quotations for the purpose of expressing the importance of recalling the freedoms once readily and easily enjoyed by American citizens, but endangered by the encroachments of government. “I have observed this in my experience of slavery, – that whenever my condition was improved, instead of its increasing my contentment, it only increased my desire to be free, and set me to thinking of plans to gain my freedom.” Please, my fellow citizens, let us make plans.

FJ Rocca is an independent, conservative writer/blogger of fiction and non-fiction, most interested in the philosophy of American conservatism. Clarity is more important than eloquence, but truth is vital to human discourse.


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Filed under Guest Post, history education, Reading and Books


Submission* by Karen Schroeder

Common Core: conservative to the core” is one of many articles Chester E. Finn, Jr., has penned encouraging conservatives to embrace Common Core State Standards. Unfortunately, Mr. Finn never discloses that his “conservative” Thomas B. Fordham Institute has accepted nearly a million dollars from the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation to develop supportive materials for Common Core Standards. Mr. Finn’s conflict of interest renders his assessment of Common Core self-serving and lacking credibility.

Advocates for Academic Freedom is funded solely by private donations. Representing taxpayers from every political party, every religion, and every socio-economic group, AAF has one goal: to demand truth and quality in all aspects of education. Our assessment of Common Core Standards conflicts with that of Chester Finn. CCS are not new, not rigorous or innovative, not fiscally responsible, not state created; they undermine accountability and traditional American values.

The Gates Foundation, David Coleman from the College Board, the International Baccalaureate Organization, the National Governors Association, the Council of Chief State School Officers, and a myriad of others wrote Common Core Standards—NOT the states.

Common Core represents another “We have to pass it so we can find out what is in it” policy. During a February, 2010, Governors’ Luncheon, President Obama told governors to adopt CCSS to receive federal Title I funds. Since the standards had not even been written, the federal government added the word “state” to the title so the public would think that the normal process of teacher and public involvement had been employed. We the people are growing tired of these insulting shell games imposed by governmental agencies.

Teachers and taxpayers should be outraged that any set of standards would require a retraining of teachers to assure implementation. Why should a teacher need to have special training to implement Common Core? The reason is that Common Core Standards do not emphasize student acquisition of knowledge and development of skills. They demand that students develop a belief system and attitudes needed to create a population with a “world philosophy”.

Americans are being forced to spend sixteen billion dollars on a plan shaped by the same policies of Benjamin Bloom that have been failing our children since the 1960s. Dozens of standards that are far more rigorous than Common Core Standards are free and available on the internet. States have always had access to them. When one compares TIMSS math standards for fourth graders to those of Common Core for the same grade level, it becomes painfully obvious that CCSS are not the rigorous standards promised.

CCSS is peppered with standards like this one for nine-year olds in fourth grade: “Construct viable arguments and critique the reasoning of others”. Most teachers would ask themselves: What is a viable argument appropriate for a nine-year-old child? What happens when a non-conformist refuses to critique a classmate/friend? What remediation will be provided? Will that remediation help the creative child learn to use non-conformity in a productive manner? How will this standard be assessed or tested for mastery?

Most math skills required under TIMSS at fourth grade can be found under the CC standards for fifth grade. Standards that are superior to CC focus on knowledge acquisition and skill development—not conformity, values, or beliefs.

Mr. Finn states that CC standards “written correctly, they do not dictate any particular curriculum of pedagogy.” Really? Then why has the federal government provided funding to publishers to align their textbooks to CCS and to testing consortiums to align all tests, ACT, SAT, accreditation, etc., to CCS?

Local control of schools includes a role in determining the curriculum taught. That is the American tradition that makes America a Constitutional Republic. When federal and state governments collude to impose standards upon the public, their DoEDs are acting in a dictatorial manner. America’s strength has always come from its people—not from its government.

It is time for taxpayers to get on the agenda for the next local school board meeting to demand rejection of CCSS and implementation of any one of the other excellent sets of standards available for free. It is time that citizens organize to stop the federal funding and the federal manipulation of the American educational system. Advocates for Academic Freedom works to build a grassroots movement to eliminate federal funding of education, to reallocate those federal educational dollars to the states, and to reinstate local control of schools. You may sign a petition on line at http://advocatesforacademicfreedom.org/petition.asp#.UdFzEuMo6po

Karen Schroeder is the President of Advocates for Academic Freedom, a member of the Wisconsin Educational Communications Board, an experienced public school teacher, and an educational consultant. She provides informational seminars to promote citizen involvement at local and state levels of the educational system. Ms.Schroeder supports a return to fact-based curricula, accountability, and academic excellence in public education. Frequently interviewed by Wisconsin radio personalities including Vicki McKenna, Karen writes for the U.S. Journal and other newspapers in several states. Karen can be reached at [email protected] or by calling 715-234-5072. Address: 331 S. Main St., Suite 307, Rice Lake, WI. 54686

*This is a submission. Submissions do not necessarily reflect an official position of Conservative Teachers of America. One of our goals is to give a larger voice to the many conservative voices that exist inside of education.


Filed under National Standards (Common Core)

Understanding the Long Game

We have promoted the young adult author Andrew Klavan here before. After the election, he wrote a must read essay for City Journal that all conservatives need to read and understand. Quit complaining about what happened last Tuesday and start doing something about it. In the essay, Klavan discusses the three areas that we must focus our “long game” on.

Life is short, said Hippocrates, but art is long. There is a practical corollary to that great truth: elections are won and lost in the politics of the moment, but it’s the culture that makes the nation.

In the aftermath of President Obama’s victory, conservative political thinkers will have to ask themselves some hard questions. How much of our defeat was due to strategy and how much to structure? How can we reach out to struggling workers without sacrificing our commitment to free enterprise and individual liberty? How can we speak to single women without losing voters committed to family values and the lives of the unborn? How can we welcome the children of illegal immigrants without compromising our belief in the rule of law?

Read the rest here.

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Filed under Young Adult Books

It’s history and economics education, stupid!

by Andrew Palmer

For anyone that follows politics they know the famous James Carville quote, “It’s the economy, stupid.” As conservatives absorb and evaluate the reasons for the reelection of the Marxist in Chief Barack Obama, the one topic that I don’t think you will see discussed will be history and economics education.

People like to scream about our education system in America, but I think they always get it all wrong. It’s history and economics education, stupid!

For decades conservatives have been belly-aching over the state of our public education system. They are always besides themselves about how our kids can’t read, they can’t write, they suck at math, or how some stupid second world country is beating us on the PISA assessment. My response to these cries has always been to roll my eyes. It is not where the problem is!

The reason that 60 million Americans were willing to elect Barack Obama is because they know little to nothing about our country, it’s history, or the principles that created our constitutional republic. Is it any wonder that this has happened? Really since Reagan the focus on the right for education reform has constantly been on science, math, and English.

Well, guess what, science, math, and English are incomplete without the fourth core of history education. I have always viewed history education as the glue that binds all of the contents. It is the “why” of us. Without the why, the other three cores are meaningless.

If one is a truth seeking person they will discover through the study of our past that America is a great nation. They will see that America made some mistakes along the way, but the truth of the matter is that we have been responsible for more good than any other nation in the history of the world. I challenge you to find one better, it doesn’t exist.

The reason the average American, the 60 million dupes that voted for Obama, never respond to the accusation of him being a socialist or a Marxist is because they don’t know what these terms mean. I have heard many people respond to the question of “What is socialism?” with a response of something to do with talking to other people. In other words, socializing. An honest pursuit of the history of governance should cause one to realize that socialism doesn’t work, and it always ends up in a fiscal cliff. Just look at Europe!

If history education is bad, economics education in this country is utterly disgusting. The average American can’t differentiate between capitalism and socialism. You think they will be able to understand the difference between Keynes and Mises? I could fall out of my seat laughing at that one. Add in a poor understanding of personal economics and you have a real disaster. Is it any wonder that Dave Ramsey makes millions teaching people to not be stupid with their money? It’s no wonder we elect the politicians we do.

I know it’s easy to really get discouraged after last night, but I’m not a sunshine patriot, and I hope you aren’t either. The progressives have been able to brainwash Americans for the last 40 years through terrible history and economics education at the secondary and post-secondary levels. If you think it’s bad now, just wait until the history component of the Common Core State Standards emerges. It is my expectation that these standards will be used to further denigrate and destroy what is left of our constitutional republic.

Many people often confuse what makes this nation great. It is not it’s people. Heck, we proved that last night. There were 60 million people that voted for a guy that has absolutely no character, honor, or integrity. What makes us great is our constitution and its foundational political philosophy. Those ideas still exist. It is up to us, conservative teachers and citizens, to protect and spread those ideas. Remember, ideas are timeless, nations are not.

If conservatives really want to focus on the ills of our education system, history and economics education is the target.

Andrew Palmer is an English Language Arts public school teacher in Missouri. You can follow him on Twitter at @MoConservTchr. He is co-founder and editor of Conservative Teachers of America. 


Filed under Economics, history education, National Standards (Common Core)