A(nother) New Direction

Time for a new subtitle. From now on, we’ll dedicate ourselves to “Awkward Conversations about School and Society.” What does this change mean? Not much, really, but I think it is necessary.

For SAGLRROILYBYGTH, this might seem familiar. In its four-year lifespan, the blog has changed directions a couple of times. At first, I hoped to explore and explain to my fellow secular progressives why some religious conservatives thought the way they did. I was interested in why smart, educated people could believe the earth was only 6,000 years old. I was curious why dedicated parents would want to keep knowledge about sex and sexuality away from their kids. I was puzzled about why some people could tell you that they loved you, but you were going to hell.

As the years have rolled on, my research interests have changed. I’m still curious about creationism, and conservatism, and old ladies who say they love you but you’re going to hell. But these days, I find myself asking those questions specifically in the context of schools and education. These days, I find myself curious about how all of us think about schools, not just the ways conservative activists think.

In every case, these difficult questions often get swept under the rug, since they are not fit for polite conversation. But they need to be aired in order to keep from festering. So from here on out, we’ll shift our focus a little bit. Instead of focusing exclusively on educational culture wars, or on conservative thinking about culture and education, we’ll ask things such as the following:

  • Why are schools still so racially segregated?
  • Should public schools teach sex ed? How?
  • What history do schools embrace? Why?
  • Why do so many people want creationism taught in public schools?
  • Who has the power in public schools? Who SHOULD have the power?
  • What sacred cows do we need to eliminate in order to get a truer picture of public education?
  • What does it mean to “reform” education? Why does every politician preach it, but so little changes?
  • Etc.!
Leave a comment


  1. 1. Money and the white flight.
    2. Yes. Condoms on cucumbers.
    3. The kind that is questioned on high stakes tests. Because their jobs depend on it.
    4. Fear of death.
    5. Politicians. Parents and teachers.
    6. I don’t know.
    7. It means I really care about it but not really. Who cares.

    • 1. Racism.
      2. “Sex education is legitimate if only because girls cannot be told soon enough how babies are *not* made.” –Karl Kraus Also “Virginity is the ideal of those who want to deflower.”
      3. History is bunk in Amerka. It’s not taught in a meaningful way. Hasn’t been for a long time.
      4. Fear of life — specifically personal responsibility for their freedom.
      5. No one is at the helm, which is to say a pack of scared, stunted children known as parents, teachers, and politicians. The wheel is spinning, as it is in so many other places. Except in a few outstanding local institutions.
      6. Among non-white minorities, the internalized white supremacist idea that non-white kids need white people to succeed. Among white people, white supremacism.
      7. It’s a meaningless discussion until the Boomers shuffle off and we can start dealing with our pluralism minus the last people who grew up in an openly white supremacist society and still pine for it.
      8. You can’t expect progress in schools when idiocy and insanity are sweeping a decadent, morally and economically bankrupt society, and nihilistic revanchism has become the main chance for many people, influencers, and leaders.

  2. Agellius

     /  September 24, 2015

    I forget, what was the subtitle before? : )

    • It used to be “I Love You but You’re Going to Hell: An Outsider’s Guide to America’s Educational Culture Wars.”

  3. Warren Johnson

     /  September 25, 2015

    “At first, I hoped to explore and explain to my fellow secular progressives why some religious conservatives thought the way they did. I was interested in why smart, educated people could believe the earth was only 6,000 years old.”

    I give up, why do they? I am thinking of the academics at Answers in Genesis, such as Jason Lisle, and Danny Faulkner, PhDs in astronomy, who blithely believe in a fairy tale version of astronomy. Their resident PhD geologist, Andrew Snelling, has promoted the (crazy) theory of flood geology for 40 some years. They have rejected the basic methods and facts of their professions.

    In fact they have constructed a small society of like-minded “creation scientists”, with pseudo-scientific journals and conferences, and whole array of science fantasies and fictions. Their education should tell them that less than 1% of educated scientists buy into their fantasies. And they are smart enough to understand that the 99% who reflect their views have very extensive reasons for their views. So how can they believe that the earth is only 6,000 years old, when 99% of the scientific world rejects that idea??

    I can only believe that they have become severely detached from reality.

    • Warren Johnson

       /  September 27, 2015

      correcting a typo and rewriting my last thoughts:

      … And they are smart enough to understand that they are rejecting the views of 99% of their professional colleagues. When you see pink elephants in the room, and 99% of the elephant experts in the room say “no, they aren’t there”, then you should conclude that you are hallucinating. I can’t understand why “smart and intelligent people” don’t get that.

      • I think you hit the nail on the head with your last comment. Creationists have created a “small society” of like-minded believers. So, to extend the pink-elephant-in-the-room analogy, when they see a pink elephant, everyone else in the room sees it too. Just because they are aware that people outside of their room don’t see it, they don’t feel any need to deny their own impressions. As David Long argued, the path of least resistance is to continue to see the elephant.

      • They’ve created a logical and psychological necessity in their minds for a God who works as they say he should. And yes, they reinforce this ritually, socially, etc.

  4. Agellius

     /  September 30, 2015

    “It’s a meaningless discussion until the Boomers shuffle off and we can start dealing with our pluralism minus the last people who grew up in an openly white supremacist society and still pine for it.”

    It will be even better once we get rid of everyone who remembers what it was like to not have gay marriage. Eh? : )

  5. Agellius

     /  October 1, 2015

    Well, what are we waiting for? Let’s build camps and start rounding them up!

    • I thought you wanted to build your own camp, in honor of St. Benedict.

      • Seriously, take a look at how the BO is going in Moscow, Idaho with their theocratic church-home school-college regime. This mountain commune of reactionary Calvinists has been run by a couple of sexually naive, repressive patriarchs who think women are second-class citizens and all sexual behavior they deem illicit is a matter of moral choice. So they decide to cure pederasts by marrying them, with predictably awful results, and everyone is surprised that housing lots of young people together yields pederasty and rape. Hit the links for the back history at the anti-federal New St. Andrews community as Rod Dreher struggles to keep his head above the crazy waters he has stirred with his Benedict Option: http://www.theamericanconservative.com/dreher/doug-wilson-reluctant-response/

      • Agellius

         /  October 1, 2015

        “they decide to cure pederasts by marrying them, with predictably awful results”

        Yeah, silly idea to think that marriage would be a solution to pedophilia.

      • Non-sarcastic agreement, I hope? You may think I’m exaggerating in these matters, but I do not believe the facts support that. The “religious traditionalists” who most oppose “secular” public education — especially in the areas of science and sex — may or may not live some kind of “opting out” lifestyle or share the sexist, racist, and theocratic views of Doug Wilson but they will share those tendencies and be susceptible to them. They wish to define humanity and society according to their naive biblical (or korannic, or talmudic) views and resist any mature understanding of sexuality, history, science, etc. This is a disaster and very dangerous for a powerful, rich, warfaring country that lets its population elect its leaders. Civil rights for all Americans do matter, and access to real education matters. From a serious Christian, Jewish or Muslim standpoint, it is a disaster for the most stupid, violent, and repressive fringes of one’s faith tradition to take control of the microphone on the national stage. Nobody should be eager for repressive, coercive intervention from the state, but at some point that will happen and be justified.

      • Agellius

         /  October 1, 2015

        It wasn’t my intention to debate any of these issues, I was just giving you a playful jab.

      • That’s fine. My impression is you’re not a radical catholic traditionalist, and you may not be aware how much unreason there is on the protestant traditionalist side. People who may sound the right notes politically may seem sympatico, but really they are not.

      • I am aware how much unreason there can be on the radical, fundamentalist Catholic side, so I don’t have much trouble imagining how unreasonable Protestant radical fundies can be. The idea of living in a semi-autonomous community with such persons in charge is not terribly appealing to me either, though it may not horrify me quite as much as it does you. (I don’t know anything about the Moscow, ID community except what I’ve seen you write.)

        Where we may part company is that I don’t believe such nuttiness is intrinsic to traditional, conservative Christian attitudes and beliefs, or even the Benedict Option approach. I know a lot of tradition-minded, socially and politically conservative Catholics who aren’t the least bit creepy or hateful or nutty (then again, maybe that’s because I’m nutty myself), at least no more so than your average nutty progressive.

        I don’t intend to be an extremist, but some Christian beliefs will seem extreme to non-Christians no matter what. That comes with the territory and can’t be helped.

      • I don’t think it’s just eccentricity. I think it’s abusive and/or abuse-enabling within their own community. Some groups that make a point of legitimizing bigotry and justifying violence are also a real danger to others. Of course this isn’t intrinsic to all Christian attitudes and beliefs, nor all that I would call traditional or conservative. It does seem to go with certain fundamentalist constructions of Christianity (and other faiths) that are usually labelled with terms like “conservative” or “traditional.” It seems to me that many, maybe most people who describe themselves in those terms share the premises that, in the hands of fundamentalists, become a deadly poison. These premises are not points of essential orthodoxy but always have to do with premodern metaphysical baggage about sex, gender, and/or race syncretically confused with bits of modern science or pseudo-science. Of course the people who hold to these beliefs disagree and insist on their orthodoxy, defining any critic as “non-Christian.” In fact the opposite is true. If you look at the history of western Christianity over the past 500 years — particularly with regard to colonialism, slavery, and women — I think the white male supremacism is quite obvious as a prevalent and toxic force. It has been explicitly related to Protestant and Catholic theological teachings at times that had to be beaten back and reformed from within or simply crash and burn out.

  1. I Love You, But… | The Pietist Schoolman

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