Wednesday, October 19, 2005

Bill Kristol, Patrick Fitzgerald and us so-called “elitist” Educators and Journalists. What Happens when Power exits Stage Door Left!

In the email today, from The Progress Report, I was informed that:
“Right-wing commentator Bill Kristol has figured out what special prosecutor Patrick Fitzgerald's investigation into the CIA leak scandal is all about: criminalizing conservatives. (Along with his colleagues at Fox News, he is pushing the line repeatedly on TV. According to Kristol's theory, Fitzgerald's probe is an example of ‘a kind of ideological criminalization" lead by "the left and the elite professions, including journalism and teaching, in which they predominate.’”
I would like to discus an aspect of Bill Kristol’s quote that most people probably wouldn’t deal with because it seems to have little relevance on the grand scheme of things—being the outcome and consequences resulting from Fitzgerald’s investigation. However, I really must protest on this insistence that Journalism and teaching are “elitist professions.” As I have never been involved with Journalism, I will talk, instead, about teaching. I don’t know what type of crack Kristol is on, but calling teaching an elitist profession is down right ridiculous! I can guarantee you that Bill Kristol makes more money than I do and always has. Being a teacher is not a goal of elitism but a true calling for wanting to help one's community. With the way teachers are paid, you better believe it’s a “calling” and not just some bid for placement in an elitist Hierarchal ladder. Granted, some instructors win fame with their publications and resulting appearances on news and cultural programming, but this small percentage of people, and it is a very small percent, doesn’t represent the realities of those of us in the field of education. We are not the rock stars of the "elitist" establishment. By stating “elitist professions” and “a kind of ideological criminalization” I am wondering, and suggesting, that Kristol is saying that we wield a power of persuasion over our students and so we “control” the ideology of society (the same could be said for journalism). Is this true? To a degree, yes. Yet, I can tell you that my “leftist” views rarely enter into the teacher-student relationship. In fact, most of my students are right-winged conservatives, after their parents (not a surprise, I teach in Boca Raton Florida), and remain conservative after they leave my classroom. My job is not to force my beliefs upon my students, but to offer the many varying points of view and have them decide. I try to offer the skills to view things through many different lenses. This is what we “elitist” educators like to call “critical thinking skills.” Yet, it is precisely this, critical thinking skills, that people like Kristol seems to object to and call “elitist.” If we teach people to think critically then maybe they might look past such blatant rhetorical bullshit (as we have here) and see the truth of the matter. To say that Fitzgerald is in line with us “lefty elitists” teachers and journalists is to forget that he was specifically appointed by the Bush administration because of (as stated by the Deputy Attorney General James Comey on December 30, 2003) "his sterling reputation for integrity and impartiality." Furthermore, Comey also said that Fitzgerald was "an absolutely apolitical career prosecutor" (emphasis added). As the email reminded me, and as I personally remember myself, president Bush agreed with Comey’s views on Fitzgerald and further “applauded the ‘dignified way’” in which Fitzgerald was handling the investigation. Thus, people become “elitist leftists”—“propagating ideology”—when views are offered that differ from this administration (see my last post). We (teachers and journalists) become elitists when, and only when, we refuse to act solely as a conduit—a lifeless uncritical vessel-for relaying status-quo material from the current administration to the public. One role that both educators and journalists have shared historically is the role of offering the public information so that they can decide critically what is really being said, as well as offering essential tools so that deconstruction of what is being said, compared to what is being done, can be performed by individuals and society at large. Yet, I think Bill Kristol and others protest too much! How odd to be on the defensive even before Fitzgerald has revealed anything yet. Could it be the fear, and the knowledge, that Fitzgerald has found something and that “something” will result in indictments? Before digesting Bill Kristol’s rhetoric whole, think about what it realty means to be elitist! The American Heritage Dictionary defines elitism as:
“The belief that certain persons or members of certain classes or groups deserve favored treatment by virtue of their perceived superiority, as in intellect, social status, or financial resources.”
If teachers and journalists were truly elitists, we would be valued more in society, by demanding “special treatment” and we would certainly be paid better! Do you know how hard it is for a college professor to get anything other than a part-time job these days? Universities are no longer filling those coveted tenure positions and most of us go without health care benefits. I have to tell you something dear folks, if I am an elitist then I want more! Hell, I want to own my own my own house. I don’t want to have to barely make it from paycheck to paycheck or get scared because I have gotten sick. And it would also be nice if my profession caused even the slightest amount of awe in others—which it doesn’t (in my experience). And yet, even these small things are not elitist—they should be viewed as valuing our educators and our journalists (hell everyone should have these small privileges in society) who work really hard, most of us, to offer something back to our community. Ask yourself, who are the real elitists here? Those in power, trying to control the outcome of all situations and also trying to control the real ideology being thrown around here, or are we lowly paid, mostly powerless, servants the elitists? Ask yourself, who really holds the power here and why are they so desperate to retain that power? We only become desperate when we stand to loose something. Talk back, tell me how you view this situation.

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