Tuesday, February 13, 2007

Liberal Tolerance is a Myth

Since publishing my post “No Child Left Behind” (2/3/07), I’ve been engaged in an email exchange with a liberal friend. Here is a sample of the debate between the Tolerant Liberal and the Conservative Neanderthal. (That’s me). You be the judge.

Tolerant Liberal: Bill says that “Many agree that the K-12 education system is failing the lower half of the intelligence distribution, preferentially inhabited by low income children and minorities (Blacks, Hispanics and Native Americans).”

It is this kind of statement that really gets me angry. Why in the world was it necessary to add the phrase after the comma? The fact that you've brought income and race into this discussion makes me very suspicious that your real goal is to perpetuate a system where the advantages of the advantaged carry on from generation to generation.

Conservative Neanderthal: Are you angry because what I said is untrue? Or maybe it’s because I am not allowed to say it. When you say that my real goal is to perpetuate a system... you base this on a misunderstanding of my motivation, which is to fix a system that fails the disadvantaged.

You do not know me. Conservatives think that liberals are wrong, but liberals think that conservatives are evil.

Tolerant Liberal: Why isn't it your goal to fix a system which fails all below-average students, whether disadvantaged or not? Is it, perhaps, because the educational system doesn't fail white students who are below average in intelligence but above average in socioeconomic status? And, liberals say the same thing about conservatives.

Conservative Neanderthal: You don't like it that my goal is to fix an educational system that fails the disadvantaged. I think that is a fine goal. The disadvantaged have special needs. You can worry about the advantaged.

Further, you proved my point (Conservatives think that liberals are wrong, but liberals think that conservatives are evil) by the comments you made. I still do not think you are evil, just wrong.

The Neanderthal was tempted to add and stupid after just wrong, but I restrained myself. This is the way so many arguments progress. We try to explain why the liberal position is wrong but they say we are mean, evil, Holocaust deniers!!

Oh yes, the ad hominem attack is such a common tactic that liberals use it with abandon and extravagance, even in the major newspapers. The Boston Globe’s Ellen Goodman used the evil card in discussing global warming. “Let's just say that global warming deniers are now on a par with Holocaust deniers, though one denies the past and the other denies the present and future.”

Nice. Goodman notes the evil of ordinary Americans who, in Pew Research Center surveys, place global warming only 20th on the list of 23 policy priorities, below terrorism, tax cuts, crime, morality, and illegal immigration. Goodman also notes that only 23% of college-educated Republicans (but 75% of Democrats) believe the warming is mostly due to humans.

So now the majority of Americans who have doubts about the human responsibility for global warming, not to mention the critical need to do something humongous about it, may be compared with Iranian Ahmadinajad and the rest of the Holocaust deniers. It’s just Ellen Goodman practicing that good old liberal tolerance.

Our friend Dennis Prager agrees that Goodman “reflects a major difference between the way in which the Left and Right tend to view each other. With a few exceptions, those on the Left tend to view their ideological adversaries as bad people, i.e., people with bad intentions, while those on the Right tend to view their adversaries as wrong, perhaps even dangerous, but not usually as bad.”

It reminds me of the animal rights organization PETA. Those tolerant liberals used their “Holocaust on your plate” campaign, which equates the barbecuing of chickens with the cremating of Jews in the Holocaust, to attack the food industry (those evil Neanderthals). All of this merely trivializes the horrors of the Holocaust and the evil of Holocaust deniers.

We conservatives do not believe that (most) liberals are evil, just utterly, impressively wrong. We want liberals to talk about their ideas, confident in our belief that normal people will eventually realize what claptrap it is. But liberals fear what we say and try to silence us by innuendo, satire (No one expects the Republican Inquisition) and calling us names. It’s like they are reliving their glory days in the school yard. (Note the infatuation with pre-pre-school.)

What liberals mean by tolerance is forbidding the Pledge of Allegiance in schools because “under God” may be offensive to atheists. To most liberals, tolerance means calling those who disagree with them evil. The unfortunate consequence is that progress on the important matters that face America is impossible when one side is using rational argument while the other side is throwing stones.


Blogger Wage slave said...

Hello - new around here, but give me a break man! The right wing has just as many intollerant, name-callers as the left. I happen to agree with some of your points - and you occasionally try to qualify your comments with phrases "some liberals", etc. but you gotta realize there is an extremely wacky right wing element (just as there is on the left - I agre!) that likes to call me America-hater every time I object to the war or anything Bush...

8:09 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Bill, you're eloquent but not fair.

I haven't read Ellen Goodman but I've seen references in editorials to her sometimes (maybe frequent, I don't know) hard-left views. But while driving across the rural areas of Utah I've heard Rush Limbaugh and several other hard-right radio talk show hosts (absolutely nothin else on the radio that was intelligible) who spew provocative stuff every single day. So some of us (certain bloggers) can focus on the extremist views of Ellen Goodman and Rush Limbaugh while the majority bottle up their views in our minds, gratified that our country is so great because all these cwazy views can be heard.

My feel is that the vast majority of Democrats consider the majority of Republicans to be misguided, but not evil--and vice-versa. I get pissed when anybody from any side uses the word "evil" except for rare exceptions (a Hitler or a Pol Pot....)

It's a well-known phenomenon that some of us (including me--and I think you) tend to be somewhat more hard-nosed using email. The exchange between Ruth and you (as noted in this blog) would probably immediately dissipate or disappear in verbal discussions; if it began, it would quickly die out. If there was a misinterpretation of what was intended, it'd immediately become clear. And I'll guess that part of Ruth's going overboard was a protective wife getting even for prior exchanges between you and Hal?

As usual the majority of the class is refraining from the fray, but maybe some of them will enter the verbal discussion on this subject that I'll try to set up in place of a break or if we have some open time.


9:39 PM  
Blogger Dana said...

I couldn't help but think of another post I just read as I read this.


10:08 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

This guy is speaking from emotion and not from fact! Tell him to go visit the schools. They are NOT failing anyone who tries to learn! The families of these students are failing them. Parents don’t care enough to make their kids do homework and for those who comes from Hispanic countries, the parents don’t care enough to even learn to speak English. The kids grow up not knowing either language fluently, thus – we have spanglish speakers and my classes at El Camino are filled with them.

Most of El Camino’s classes are filled with all kinds of kids – white, Hispanic and black. More is done for them than for the “cream of the crop” kids! Tell this guy to get somefacts to back him up – or to come take my class in logical thinking – he isn’t showing any here.


10:12 AM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...


I kind of like the idea of a Republican Inquisition. I want to volunteer to be one of the judges. Can I send you a list of the first people I’d have rounded up?

I’m not so sure that people with really bad ideas don’t become bad people. It seems to me that many of the jihadists are in fact bad people, not just wrong headed. I think that believing that all abortions are acceptable is a bad idea and that people who support it are on the verge of being bad people, not just wrong. Prager frequently makes the point that there are degrees of goodness and badness, read evil. I don’t think that we should categorically be unwilling to call people with really bad ideas living inside of them as bad people.

I loved your line about telling the liberal that they could worry about the advantaged. I thought that was very funny.

The question becomes why are members of certain ethnic and racial groups much more likely to be represented in the classes of the disadvantaged? I think there are a lot of answers. One that I have recently become aware of is the idea of intergenerational poverty. It involves a different way of thinking about achievement beyond class and race as such. It involves the ways that people from different classes actually think – both in terms of content as well as process. I would refer you to framework for Understanding Poverty by Ruby Payne, Ph.D. It has some very enlightening ways of conceptualizing this discussion on why the educational system is failing so many of our disadvantaged children, much less the rest of them.

Dr Dave

10:13 AM  
Blogger Bill Lama said...

All generalizations are unfair to some. I won't argue about the relative extremism of Goodman and Limbaugh, but even that most provacative righty, Michael Savage, calls "liberalism a mental disorder." He doesn't call normal everyday liberals evil. For every Limbaugh, I believe there are 10 Goodmans and they are featured in the prominent newspapers and the big three TV networks. Then there are the colleges where lefty profs have no restraints whatsoever. (See Ward Churchill) Dennis Prager makes the case much better than I can, and he is no flamer.

I have a large group of friends, many of them liberal, and I engage them in meaningful conversations. I'm sure you are not surprised. So here is a typical liberal perspective as expressed to me many times: "How can you be a conservative (or Republican)? They don't care about poor people."

Notice, it's not "conservative ideas are not good for poor people," or even "Republican policies benefit rich people more than poor people." Those perfectly respectable positions can be fruitfully debated. But my friends really don't want to debate, thus conservatives "don't care about poor people." Case closed, end of conversation.

I'm interested in your definition of evil. Surely we agree on Hitler, Stalin, Pol Pot... the 9/11 monsters... the Palestinian suicide bombers... What about Alfred Kinsey? Or Peter Singer? They fit my definition of evil.

10:53 AM  
Blogger Mahndisa S. Rigmaiden said...

02 14 07

Hey Bill:
Good points! Given my occupation, Helen is totally correct. It has EVERYTHING to do with the home environment and the disclipline of the parents! My paternal Grandparents grew up in the segregated South. YET they received a stellar education because their family valued it! Talk about a lack of school funding! I would argue that pumping more money into schools isn't going to do a damned thing to cure defiant children or their irresponsible parents.

A change in consciousness needs to occur such that education is valued across the board.

To address a commenter below, I have quite a few immigrant Hispanic clients and all of them are exceedingly motivated to facilitate their child's success, in contrast with what you have seen.

I suppose area matters...In any event this was a stimulating post Bill. And you are right, liberals just love to toss about nasty ad hominems without justification!

10:58 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

So true. A couple of quick, random thoughts:

1. Liberals have been in charge of the public education system in the U.S. for nearly 50 years, and they still haven't been able to raise the bottom half of the class into the top half. They think with enough money they can create Lake Wobegon, where the women are strong, the men are good looking and all of the children are above average.

2. If you are familiar with the Myers-Briggs Personality Inventory, liberals tend to be "F's," and conservatives "T's" (feelers and thinkers). F's are people who apply their feelings to every problem and proposed solution. T's, by contrast, annoyingly apply such criteria as cost/benefit analyses. Because F's are feelers, they assume everyone else to be as well. Thus, the only way to understand T's is that they are morally deficient.

T's think that everyone is a T. (How else to use your brain but by applying logical analysis to any issue?) They therefore assume that F's are logically impaired. There is no equation to intelligence as to either category. Interestingly, most judges are T's, most teachers are F's. They were drawn to the
professions for personality reasons. F's have a hard time being "judgmental."

I have not seen Myers Briggs tested with this hypothesis as to politics in mind, but I have no doubt that it would bear me out.


9:06 AM  

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