March 05, 2005

Bitch. Ph.D.: Spoiled students, part 3; or, what kind of student was I?

Dr. B writes about her childhood education, and then reflects:

This is one reason I want to get pseudonymous kid the hell away from whitebread smalltownia: his mom is a college professor, he's not going to have to worry about academics. What is going to be hard for him if we don't get out of here is to expand his brain beyond middle-class suburbanism. But the point isn't, 'god I hate the suburbs' (though I do): the point, educationally speaking, is that in some ways one of the things I took away from my elementary ed. was that, in the name of protecting their kids, middle-class parents seriously limit their childrens' education. The education I got was far superior to the education the honors kids--or the white flight kids whose parents moved to a different school district--received. What those kids learned, I got from books and at home. What I learned, they couldn't learn from books, or at home in their safe suburban families. Maybe some of them learned a bit of it later; I hope so. The problem, of course, is that when those kids don't learn those things, they grow up to weild power and miseducate their own children and continue to shit on the children of the underclasses. I don't want my kid to grow up to think like that, nor do I want him to grow up with the equally horrible (maybe in some ways even worse) sense of safe middle-class liberalism that the honors kids whose parents kept them in public school had, a liberalism that operates without a real understanding of the issues at hand and is still, underneath, scared and scornful of the people it tries to 'help' without in any way actually thinking about the power structure.

I have one small, impersonal comment on this, and then I'll go into a larger, more personal one.

The small comment is that the last sentence reminds me of Nietzsche's critique of a sort of patronizing liberalism and Christian charity. Nietzsche argued that these attitudes towards the 'lower' classes stemmed from a feeling he called ressentiment: anger, jealousy, and resentment.

The larger comment is that, particularly in Bush's America, the ideology of the suburbs is just as much condescending conservatism as condescending liberalism. This is actually the ideology I was surrounded by growing up in rural Northern California: throughout the community, almost nothing but contempt is shown for the small non-white population of the county, for gay people, for liberals and 'socialists', and for 'flatlanders', a term which describes the tourists who come up to the mountains from San Francisco and the Central Valley (and whose wallets bring in the cash which keeps the economy afloat there, I might add). The local paper, 'The oldest continuously published paper west of the Mississippi', publishes syndicated neo-con Charles Krauthammer's calls to invade Iran and Syria and letters to the editor which forecast the doom which will befall our bastion of decent living if, say, the 'communist-socialist plot' to put carpool lanes on a busy stretch of the major highway is implemented, or Wal*Mart isn't given the tax breaks and exemptions from road development requirements it 'needs'.

I think the only reason I didn't turn out a raging movement conservative Christian like so many of the people I went to high school with was my parents. While I'm far to the left of both of them today, they -- and especially my mom -- offered a moderate-liberal counterbalance to all the bigotry and lower-middle-class sneering that surrounded me. The church we attended until I was in junior high is by far the most liberal in the county.

If I had to choose between the condescending liberal East Bay suburb where my dad lives and the condescending conservative community where my mom lives and I grew up, I really don't know which way I would go. I don't think I could stand the people in either place.

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