Two Progressive Thinkers, A Critique

 

Some months ago a dear granddaughter sent me two articles written by authors with liberal/progressive viewpoints.  My granddaughter herself has a generally liberal outlook on social issues, and I am certain that she considers me to be a well meaning but somewhat misguided conservative.

One of these writers was Margaret Hagerman, a sociology professor at Mississippi State University.  Margaret Hagerman was the author of a book entitled White Kids: Growing Up w/Privilege in a Racially Divided America.  Dr. Hagerman spent many months in the company of people she describes as affluent white progressives.  As she described them, most of these people are very sensitive to the racial inequalities that continue to affect our society, yet many if not most of them do not hesitate to manipulate the educational system to give their sons or daughters a competitive advantage.  They do this even while sensing that a competitive advantage for their child might adversely effect other, less privileged children.  For example, the affluent parent might try to ensure that their child has the very best English or math teacher. Others might send their children to a private school, secular or parochial, and take no interest in improving the quality of a nearby public educational institution.  At other times they might flee a school district and take up residence in an area known for excellent public schools.  These last two options are not available to students from poorer families.

Although these socially progressive parents harbor no apparent racial animus, concern for their own children’s well-being generally outweighs their desire to achieve equitable outcomes for all students.  Professor Hagerman calls this situation the “conundrum of privilege.” These parents have lots of economic resources as well as status as white people. They can then use those resources to set up their own child’s life in ways that give that child the best education, the best health care, all the best things. And we have this collectively agreed-upon idea in our society that being a “good parent” means exactly that—providing the best opportunities you can for your own child. But many of these parents also believe strongly in the importance of diversity and multiculturalism and want to resist racial inequality. And these two things are somewhat at odds with one another. These affluent white parents are in a position where they can set up their kids’ lives so that they are better than other kids’ lives; but the dark side is that, ultimately, these people are thinking about their own kids, and that can come at the expense of other people’s kids.

Professor Hagerman views this dichotomy with concern, but she offers no solution and appears to believe the situation is unlikely to change.

I cannot say that I am well acquainted with any of these affluent white progressives (liberals) that are the focus of Hagerman’s research.  I was reared in modestly comfortable circumstances, but for most of my adult married life I was far from affluent.  Indeed, it was often a struggle to balance the family budget.  Our five sons attended public schools, and we could not afford to send them to private schools or pay for their college educations.  We helped as we could, but they chiefly worked their way through college by their own efforts.   It was only as our sons gradually spread their wings and went out on their own that we ourselves began to experience financial security.  Most of our friends were in the same economic class that we were.  None of them could be considered wealthy except in the sense of being good persons, an honor to know and to love.

I can understand someone’s desire to put their children in a position to get ahead, but I would be offended by anyone who manipulated the system to give their sons or daughters a competitive advantage.  The way she pictures some of them, I don’t think that I would like these affluent progressives very much.  They come across as arrogant and more than a bit condescending.  Nevertheless, I recognize the conundrum. 

My granddaughter’s own mother struggled with the same issues that Hagerman described.  This happened when her first child, a son, went off to his first year of school.  My daughter-in-law was compassionately liberal, very supportive of public schools, and she wanted to send her son to one.  Indeed, he did attend public school for a short time.  I do not know all the details of what happened, but my daughter-in-law suddenly changed her mind, and her son was removed from public school and enrolled in a Christian school.  Neither he nor his sisters spent much time in the public schools of Mecklenburg County. 

Were her parents wrong to remove their children from the public school system?  I don’t think so.  Their attendance in Charlotte public schools would have done little or nothing to improve the quality of those schools, nor do I believe it would have given them as good an education or a greater appreciation for the still existing racial inequalities that exist in America. The growth of home schooling and of private schools is a statement to public education leaders that they are failing to meet the needs of our people.  

I do not believe that there is a conflict between being a good parent and a good citizen.  As long as they fight fair, I think it is right and proper for all parents to strive for what they think is best for their children.  In fighting for this “best” they improve the chances for a good outcome for everyone, and, as good parents, they should also teach their children to respect all people and to stand up for freedom and equal opportunity. 

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The other article submitted by my granddaughter was written by Trevor Noah, a South African comedian, writer, producer, political commentator, actor, and television host. He is known for hosting The Daily Show, an American satirical news program on Comedy Central.

Noah’s main point appeared to be that President Trump has somehow made all men into victims of the Me Too movement.  Trevor insists that instances of sexual aggression against females is quite common, but false accusations against males are extremely rare.  I really don’t know the truth about that.  I’m not aware of any reliable studies or statistics on the subject.  I only know that I have never been sexually aggressive, and I would vouch for the good name of most of the men I know.   

As a teen, I was once falsely accused by a young girl.  I was with a group of seventh graders on a school yard when a young lady, a very casual acquaintance, turned and slapped me hard on my face.  It was a mean blow, and it really hurt and embarrassed me.  Obviously, from her demeanor and what she said, she thought I had inappropriately touched her.  But I was entirely innocent.  If anyone touched her, it wasn’t me.  But what could I say to prove my innocence.  Many of those who observed her anger and actions assumed I was guilty, even though my name was previously unsullied.  Some of my close friends accepted my assurances that I had not touched the girl, but I could sense that even they were not certain.

I consider that a rather trivial incident.  It happened more than 78 years ago.  Nevertheless, I remember it vividly, and that slap still stings.  Girls and women sometimes make false accusations of inappropriate sexual actions by boys and men. Occasionally it is a case of mistaken identity or misinterpretation of a particular event; at other times it may be a deliberate lie born out of malicious hate; rarely it is a lie to obscure their own guilt; more rarely still, a woman might lie to advance a cause that she considers more important than the truth.  Although false accusations may be relatively rare, their consequences can be devastating.

I also know that some males are sexual predators, and instances of male sexual aggression are doubtless far more common than false accusations of the same.  These aggressive males tend to be extremely active and touch the lives of many people, therefore their numbers are often exaggerated.  They damage the reputation of all males. Also, when these sexual predators are in positions of power, they can do much damage   I applaud the Me Too movement for attempting to expose these serial sexual predators.  

It would seem that sexual predation and the thirst for power often go hand in hand. One of our political notables once said, “Power is the ultimate aphrodisiac.” It is often difficult for men to resist the temptations and the advantages, sexual or otherwise, conferred by power.  And women are often strangely attracted to predators. Many seem to be particularly vulnerable to men in positions of power.  Perhaps they emit the same sort of pheromones.  Anyway, some females cluster around powerful male rulers, politicians, actors, and sports heroes like cats around catnip.  That makes them relatively easy pickings.  Of course, that does not excuse the predators.  Some of them are truly evil men.  As my dear, departed wife would say, “Hang them all!”

Trevor Noah also had a few things to say about Christine Blasey Ford.  He made it clear that he believed Ford and thinks Kavanaugh a liar.  What amazes me about this entire controversy is how much our belief in the veracity of Ford or Kavanaugh is based on our political leanings rather than reason.  If we wanted Kavanaugh confirmed as Supreme Court justice, it was obvious he had been falsely accused.  If we opposed Kavanaugh’s confirmation, Christine was a heroic champion, scarred but unbroken, who was willing to give her all in service of  truth and justice.

I think you know who and what I believe.

And, whatever you believe, I still respect your right to a different opinion.

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