Friday, October 10, 2003

Teacher Magazine (a foundation-baby wonkproduct of the People's Republic of Maryland) has an article that made a minor splash (or at best, a ripple) in the conservative end of the blogsphere, mostly for an offhand comment by a malevolent unnamed teacher at a conference. Go to Porphryogenitus or Best of the Web for the punchline. I initially skimmed the article in spinal-reflexive disgust.

When I went back and read it through without the rage, an interesting thing happened. The article ceased to be a apocalyptically repulsive peacenik propaganda piece and... shifted. Once I calmed down, the peacenik-radical schoolteacher, Colman McCarthy, came into focus. And the best I could muster, was pity. Viewed with dispassion, he's a sad little man, whose high-school students can argue rings around, who's incapable of the most basic sort of logic that even the dimmest high-school-jock possesses. He's an intellectual vacuum, behind which his students swirl in confused vortexes of argument. McCarthy is so weak a presence that his class appears to be a spare study hall.

Once you get into the article, it's clear that a lot of lefty administrators in Maryland have let him take up a spare classroom here or there as an act of leftist charity. The man portrayed in this article isn't the vanguard of bad ideology - he's a sad little laughingstock. At worst, he's a peculiar side-effect of some greater evil, a spinning, directionless eddy of a greater wave. At best, he's a strange aberration and waste of local school taxes. Some of the internal evidence of the article leads me to suspect that most of his "classes" are after-school affairs and community-college irrelevancies. At least two of the schools cited seem to be ones in which his own children were enrolled; I strongly suspect that they gave him a class to make him happy.

The McCarthys of the world aren't a threat to anybody - they're so totally lacking in common sense or capacity that any seventh-grade wallflower could drive them like a herd of sheep. I had someone like McCarthy as a seventh-grade history teacher. He wasn't nearly so lovable as McCarthy was - the class ate him alive. We forced him into a nervous breakdown and retirement.

The article waves at the "peace love and understanding" cliches, but the actual character portrayed undermines the meme being sold. There's nothing to fear from gentle idiots like McCarthy. Radical pacifists aren't a danger. Watch out for the pseudo-pacifists - they're the ones that are dangerous, because they've got the drive to cause trouble. Like the cockroach that Porphyrogenitus and Taranto caught scurrying out from under the lamp at the end, there.

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