The Opposite of Education

Sunday’s New York Times had this front-page investigative article (i.e. not a piece about breaking news, but one involving investigation over a period of time — as it says, “Over more than a year, the reporters interviewed more than 275 people, translated dozens of Yiddish-language documents and analyzed millions of rows of data on failing private schools in the Hasidic Jewish community.”)

NYT, Eliza Shapiro and Brian M. Rosenthal, 11 Sept 2022: In Hasidic Enclaves, Failing Private Schools Flush With Public Money

Subtitle: “New York’s Hasidic Jewish religious schools have benefited from $1 billion in government funding in the last four years but are unaccountable to outside oversight.”

The Hasidic Jewish community has long operated one of New York’s largest private schools on its own terms, resisting any outside scrutiny of how its students are faring.

But in 2019, the school, the Central United Talmudical Academy, agreed to give state standardized tests in reading and math to more than 1,000 students.

Every one of them failed.

Reactions have been bubbling around the major commentary sites today. The existence of these religious schools — in which students are shielded from the outside world, taught only religious texts and barely anything else — has been known for ages. The point of the NYT piece was that despite all this these schools have been getting public money.

The schools appear to be operating in violation of state laws that guarantee children an adequate education. Even so, The Times found, the Hasidic boys’ schools have found ways of tapping into enormous sums of government money, collecting more than $1 billion in the past four years alone.

Somehow, it hasn’t seemed to matter. This is a long article I could quote many scary passages from, about how little students at these schools know, how many basic tests they fail.

Two points: 1) What if these were Islamic schools, getting public money for inculcating their kids into the Koran, and otherwise uneducated about the actual world?; 2) Isn’t this what the Christian extremists would like to do, what with their defunding of public education, and their emphasis on home-schooling to inculcate religious dogma and filter out secular knowledge?

Why, yes!

Salon, Amanda Marcotte, 12 Sept 2022: Upset by New York Times exposé on Hasidic schools? That’s what GOP wants for all American kids

Subtitle: “Here’s the GOP endgame: Tax-funded schools that teach religion and propaganda, but not literacy, math or history”

The end goal of all this is no secret: Defund and decimate public schools so much that the only remaining forms of education are private schools (or privately managed charters), where the price of learning basic literacy is a truckload of religious indoctrination and falsified American history. The leaders of the movement aren’t coy about this. Christopher Rufo, who was the front man for instigating national panics over “critical race theory” and “grooming” in public schools, often gives speeches crowing about how much damage he’s doing to the public education system.


The real issue here is not “parents’ rights” but children’s rights. In most cases, the parents’-rights gambit is rhetorical sleight-of-hand meant to distract people from what’s really going on, which is adults depriving vulnerable children of the resources they need to grow into healthy adults. Book bans, “don’t say gay” laws, crackdowns on school newspapers and right-wing takeovers of school boards: It all serves the same purpose. For all the talk about “liberty” and “choice” that anti-education activists engage in, the end goal here is to limit the freedom of thought, and the freedom of life choices, that kids can have as adults.


Another gloss:

OnlySky, Hemant Mehta, 12 Sept 2022: New York’s Hasidic Jewish schools take public funds but fail to educate kids

Of course, criticizing such things risks one being labeled anti-Semitic, or anti-Christian. But the point of public education in the US was to create a populace capable of maintaining a democracy. So…


This is a key reason why America is fading on the national stage, and other nations, not hobbled by religious dogma, will overtake us.


On roughly related topics, here are a couple of pieces from a couple of the aggregate sites I look at every day.

Colorado Newsline, Chase Woodruff, via RawStory, via Joe.My.God, 10 Sept 2022: Lauren Boebert tells churchgoers to ‘rise up’ at far-right Christian conference

“God is on our side. The blood has been applied,” Boebert told the crowd at Charis Bible College in an hour-long speech that quoted heavily from scripture. “We are going straight into victory. You are all more than conquerers through God, through Christ who strengthens you every step of the way.”

Of course *everyone* thinks God is on their side. And that their religion is the correct one. That’s part of the narcissism of the faithful. The smart ones figure their way out of it.


Joe.My.God, 11 Sept 2022: “Christian Nationalism” Book Makes Best-Sellers List

Famous quote attributed to the poet Maya Angelou: When someone shows you who they are, believe them the first time.

The book, Christian Nationalism: A Biblical Guide For Taking Dominion And Discipling Nations, is a 135 page paperback published by “Independently Published,” i.e. self-published. And as of *this* writing, it’s settled down to 48th place on the Amazon bestseller list. (Many books, those with dedicated fan bases and not general appeal, peak quickly on Amazon and disappear by the following week.)

The linked article quotes an email from the publisher/author:

We can and must reclaim and maintain our townships, school boards, and counties. Then our state legislatures. Then the entire nation.

In order to do so we must exit the beast system completely and build our own parallel Christian society, lying in wait for their system to collapse which is when the Godly infrastructure we have built will fill the vacuum.

We must support, start, and grow Christian-owned businesses. We must stop using the technology tools of the enemy and start building and using our own.
Finally we must be prepared to wage a multi-generational spiritual war against the demonic anti-Christian worldviews that are dominating our culture and Western society.

Our sons will have been through the Classics, all of Greek Philosophy, the entire Bible, and know how to build things with their hands, shoot guns, grow food, hunt, fish, lift weights, and start a business by the time they are 18.

I’m unclear whether he wants to take over “the entire nation” or build a “parallel Christian society.” Build things, shoot guns, grow food, hunt, fish, lift weights? That’s it? Living off the land, in ignorance of the outside world? Good luck with that; they might actually survive for generations, if they can truly isolate themselves from the outside world. (Where, exactly?) Each generation will die young.

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