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Political Ideology As Seen Through a Tree Metaphor


Image courtesy of Sura Nualpradid / FreeDigitalPhotos.net

This is a guest post by Dana R. Casey.

A simple narrative recently given to my daughter seems innocent enough on its face and is, in fact, accurate in a simplistic way. But the message that most students get from this example, given the constant deluge of liberal equals good and conservative equals evil, is clear leftist liberal propaganda.

Here is the note that I found in my daughter’s notebook from her American History class:

A tree has a broken limb.

Radicals would blow up the tree.

Liberals would prune and tend to the tree.

Conservatives would leave the tree alone.

 Here is the liberal subtext, the message that students get:

A tree has a broken limbAwwwww, the poor tree. We must fix her because nature is our mother and the spirit of the tree is suffering.

Radicals would blow up the treeTrees are bad because they are traditional and all things traditional are evil. They are chains to enslave us!

Liberals would prune and tend to the treeBecause we are a loving, compassionate, and enlightened people who have the vision to foresee the long term consequences of that broken limb. We will mend it, tend it, and prune it and then make a law that all people tend the trees or our children will live in a hellish flooded world unable to sustain life.

Conservatives would leave the tree aloneConservatives are selfish, racist bigots who don’t care about poor people.

Here is the conservative interpretation, a message that students NEVER get:

A tree has a broken limb: That is a fact

Radicals would blow up the treeRadicals would blow up the tree because they have been infected with “cause”. They are infected because they are void of self-value and their lives lack a purposefulness leaving them empty. They fill the emptiness with “cause”. They will blow up the tree leaving a bare scorched field. Then, because they have nothing beyond the cause of blowing up the tree, they have nothing to take place of the tree. They find another cause or another tree to destroy. Shade, shelter, wood, fruit, all is lost. 

Liberals would prune and tend to the treeLiberals would determine that the limb broke because of winds created by global warming and destroy American industry to control greenhouse gasses whether or not there is any evidence to make such a correlation. To fill the manufacturing void, China’s manufacturing would explode geometrically and pollution would quadruple in China, because they have absolutely no qualms about polluting with impunity in this communist oligarchy.

Then the liberals would try to splice the limb back on and trim the other limbs to balance the limb inequality, but they would stop when they noticed a rare snail on the limb. They will add a tax to protect future undiscovered rare snails. Next, they would say that one cannot remove the broken limb because it houses the rare snail found only on that limb. It will not matter that the limb has crashed into someone’s house and that the family will lose their shelter and property if the limb is not removed. Snails are more important than people.

They will then make it social policy to shame anyone who removes broken limbs from their houses because conservatives are selfish, racist bigots who don’t care about poor people.

Conservatives would leave the tree aloneIf the tree was on their neighbor’s property, the conservatives WOULD indeed leave the tree alone as it is their neighbor’s business. If the tree was on their own property, they might take that limb and make found-wood frames or slice it into natural chopping boards and sell them. Then they might start looking around for other fallen branches. They might pay some others to gather fallen branches. They might hire unemployed people to manufacture or sell their frames and boards. They might purchase unused land and plant more trees. Or they might just chop up the limb for fire wood, trim the break, seal the cut, and let the tree grow providing wonderful shade for the backyard. They might choose to do nothing but pull the limb to the back of their yard and leave it there. Whatever they choose to do, it is their business because it is THEIR tree.

The most important point is that either both or neither of these interpretations should be found in a public school classroom. The school’s responsibility must be to actually teach a real diversity of ideas or should present information in as unbiased a way as possible. Here is the only version of this tree metaphor that I would give in my classroom and the only one that belongs in any public school classroom in America:

A tree has a broken limb.

Radicals would blow up the tree: There are extremists of every variety who want to tear down parts or all of society for what they believe in. Not everyone agrees on who is a radical. A radical to one group may be a freedom fighter to another.

Liberals would prune and tend to the tree: Liberals believe that the world is unjust and people need help. They feel that the government is the best way to provide that help. They believe people should pay taxes to support government programs and that the government should create laws to make people more equal in both income and quality of life. Liberals tend to challenge traditions.

Conservatives would leave the tree alone: Conservatives believe that individuals should control their own lives and, therefore, the government should be limited and freedom of individuals should be protected. Federal taxes should be minimal, used for only defense and infrastructure. They also believe that the free market and capitalism are the best way to make individuals more prosperous. Conservatives tend to support traditions.

Discuss these ideas with your family and explore these ideas on your own to decide which you believe is right.

Liberals control the narrative in schools, in the news, in movies, in almost all aspects of popular culture. Whoever controls the narrative teaches the “truths” of that society. Are we going to continue allowing only liberals to control the narrative? Are we going to start demanding that the conservative voice be heard once again in  diversity of ideas, or demand that schools and universities remain unbiased in their presentation of ideas.

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.


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Filed under Guest Post


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)