Blackboard Jungles

I hate to sound like a bonehead movement conservative, but....I find it hard to believe anything I see in the news, which in my case consists mostly of the headlines of The Daily Mail.  I don't mean I think the writers and editors are lying.  I just find it hard to believe that anyone could make the stupid comments that inspire the headlines, that a writer would find them worth repeating, that an editor who did not work for his middle school newsletter would print them, and, finally, that anyone would take the trouble to click on the headline and read the story.

Case in point:  Almost everything written about the recent school shooting in Florida. Some of my friends wonder why I so rarely comment on such incidents.  To say what?  It's a tragedy, when it is anything but?    I am devastated by the death of strangers about whom I could scarcely care less?  That it proves we need rigid gun control, as Piers Morgan insists, or that we need to have armed guards swarming over the schools, as the great patriot of the airwaves Sean Hannity has been bellowing for years?

The most unbelievable headlines are made by celebrity entertainers who are required to have opinions on everything from the creation of the universe to Global Warming to the cure for acne.   Piers Morgan, the lizard-creatures on The View,  and the hundreds of  floozies and seducers who make up the Hollywood elite cannot believe we have not yet banned all firearms.  One Jimmie Kimmel actually cried on the air in his rage that Donald Trump has not seized dictatorial power and rounded up all the guns in America.  For the Kimmels, the Republicans are all in the pay of the NRA, which is why they cynically refuse to protect our children.  Strange that late night TV hosts do not ban the stars of action movies in which teenage boys find role models for mass murder.  But they they know for certain that books, movies, tv shows, and comic books do not affect the morals of their readers

I used to think the TV creatures were simply liars.  Surely, they must realize that there is a long and distinguished moral and political tradition that emphasizes moral discipline and self defense as the proper foundation of a decent public order.  Perhaps the so-called conservatives are wrong, but any reasonably honest person should at least be willing to listen to their argument.  As the decades go by, I am more and more convinced that I have been wrong.  The Kimmels and Lettermans really are as dumb as they seem, and it is time to give up being surprised at anything they say or do.  The only reasonable response is never to read even the headlines.  Don't give up the news for Lent:  Give it up for every season of the year.

Anyone who thinks about these cases for more than a minute or two should come to several obvious conclusions. First, most of the shooters come from broken homes and troubled backgrounds.  Young Mr. Cruz was adopted only to lose his second set of parents.  Most of his role models appear to have come from broken homes.  Considering the enormous cost--in lives and  money--inflicted on American citizens and taxpayers by the spoiled brats who get married in a fever and start splitting when the fires go out, why not impose some modest tax on divorcing couples, say, one year's combined income?  Of course, exceptions would be made for the injured victims of a runaway spouse, but let us establish the basic principle that if people wish to behave like feral beasts, they will have to pay for the privilege.

Second, and just as important, most of these incidents take place in large consolidated schools.  There was, of course, the terrible attack on an Amish community school, but that is the exception that proves the rule, since the attacker had nothing to do with the school or the community.  In most of the well-publicized cases, the shooter was a student or had some connection with one of these vast prison complexes known as public schools.

I don't know what the maximum limit should be, but 500 students is probably too many.  With smaller schools and an absolute prohibition on forced busing, schools would go back to being neighborhood institutions, where children went to school with the children they played with.  Obviously, in a country where selling out and moving away is a right guaranteed in the Constitution, there will be enough anonymity in schools to encourage alienation and depravity, but, in smaller neighborhood-based schools, there is a far greater opportunity to enforce social control over budding deviants.

Once the the break-up of the educational concentration camps has been accomplished, the staff and parents would have to be given broad powers to set policy, including standards of deportment.  Students expelled for violence and threats of violence, as Mr. Cruz was, would not be allowed to register at another school within the district, and letters would be put in his file warning other districts not to accept him.  If they did, they would have to sign an agreement accepting liability for any damage he inflicted.

I could say more, but why?  These observations are only the common sense derived from the American experience of government schooling.  The first step is to demolish the Blackboard Jungles we have created not to house wild animals but to turn American children into beasts.

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Thomas Fleming

Thomas Fleming is president of the Fleming Foundation. He is the author of six books, including The Morality of Everyday Life and The Politics of Human Nature, as well as many articles and columns for newspapers, magazines,and learned journals. He holds a Ph.D. in Classics from the University of North Carolina, Chapel Hill and a B.A. in Greek from the College of Charleston. He served as editor of Chronicles: a Magazine of American Culture from 1984 to 2015 and president of The Rockford Institute from 1997-2014. In a previous life he taught classics at several colleges and served as a school headmaster in South Carolina

16 Responses

  1. Allen Wilson says:


    Schooling must not be compulsory or government regulated. Nor should it be tax supported, except perhaps on a local level, and maybe not even on that level.

  2. Avatar photo Thomas Fleming says:

    In the bad old dark days, “public” schools in the Midwest and elsewhere were really community schools serving a few dozen families at most. The prominent men of the community formed a board and hired the “principal teacher” who, if the place were large, might hire an assistant or two. They served at the will–and whim–of the families. In one of the Little House Books Laura, having graduated from a prairie school, becomes a teacher. It was only in the 20th century out here that state governments seized power. In Massachusetts the process began well before the War Between the States. One self-serving lie that conservatives often tell is how Horace Mann was corrupted by his study of German schooling. Nonsense, Prussian education merely reinforced his bizarre Puritan notions. Prussian ideas, of course, played a part in the corruption of America, but only because they gave a systematic foundation for the City on a Hill of which the educators dreamed.

  3. Allen Wilson says:

    I remember sitting in 5th and 6th grade classrooms and having to study propaganda about the big war, and knowing it was lies because of what my grandfather had told me, passed down from his maternal grandfather, and how his paternal great-grandfather had died a few months after rather distinguished service at Chickamauga. That was when I started doubting public “education”.

    Weren’t schools in the prewar South mostly private? Savannah had a city-funded “public” school but it appears that attendance was voluntary.

    Rushdoony, in his American History course, quotes a passage from Mann’s famous speech to the Massachusetts convention. He does not ridicule it, but it is laughable. I was going to copy the paragraph and paste it here as a quote, but it’s a very long speech so I gave up looking for the passage. I can’t imagine having to sit through all that bloviating.

    Is it true that Mann and the others in that movement misunderstood much of those Prussian ideas? Prussian schools don’t seem to have been so bad as American schools turned out to be right from the start.

  4. Dot says:

    There are multiple factors that contribute to the making of Black Board Jungles. Lack of discipline in the schools is one of them and is worse than the size of the school or whether the student comes from a troubled home.

    Does anyone remember being slapped on each hand with a ruler for disobeying in school? Does anyone remember having to stand in front of the class with a ward of gum stuck to his forehead for chewing gum in class? How many wards of gum have you found under the seat of your chair when you were in grammar school? When recess was over didn’t you have to get in line and file back to class quietly?

    If the home is troubled for whatever reason, the teacher was the source of learning and discipline for each student. The combination of discipline and proper attention to each student to do well in order to function as a productive individual in life was the teacher.

  5. Avatar photo Thomas Fleming says:

    Re Horace Mann. Much of New England intellectual life was derived from mistranslated and misunderstood German texts. One famous summary of Emerson’s Transcendentalism was that he had misunderstood the German he had tried to read. It has been decades since I looked into this–for a brief time I used to bill out as an educational consultant and used to be summoned to the DofE many times a year, before they realized we are on entirely different sides–but Mann seems to have read into German nationalism and idealism his own silly notions. Interestingly, he started out arguing that Mass schools should be explicitly Unitarian on the grounds–this is really hilarious–that all Christians believe in one God but only some in a Triune God–but the arrival of Catholic Irish was so alarming he then concentrated on converting th Micks to generic Protestantism. The Catholics made the only intelligent response possible: They founded their own schools. After the War the brilliant anti-Catholic RL Dabney grudgingly praised Catholics for understanding that religion was the only sound basis for education.

    Yes, most Southern schools were private, though here and there communities formed schools. The Midwest was under the shadow of New England, but Midwestern schools were not government schools. On

  6. Jacob Johnson says:

    Today, the primary function of the temples of initiation for the cult of teenybopperism, known as schools, is to train teenage boys to adopt the accent of valley girls. Ten years ago, it was an awkward and nasal approximation of the dialect spoken by those who dwell in Memphis housing projects.

    When Zuckerberg’s VR goggles are standardized from coast-to-coast as an educational instrument, perhaps the optic nerves of the youth will be so damaged that would-be spree killers will be unable to aim properly and thus the children will all be safe.

  7. Avatar photo Thomas Fleming says:

    Please tell us a bit more about the VR goggles. I’ve read a bit but not much. Probably, though, the spree-killers will turn to automatic weapons and grenades. Where there’s a will….

  8. Avatar photo Thomas Fleming says:

    PS Speaking of VR, what can one say of schoolkids being taught to instrumentalize a mass murder for political purposes. In any decent society, none of the teachers responsible would ever be permitted to ruin another child’s mind.

  9. Jacob Johnson says:

    I know nothing about any plans for standardized introduction of “educational VR”, other than the fact that any new technology is fitted into a predictable formula, wherein anything expensive- that can be stolen and/or have pepsi spilled on it- holds the potential to revolutionize learning. So if you do not vote for an expansion of the school budget you hate children. I do remember hearing some Google employee on the radio hawking something which would allow students to “go on virtual field trips to the pyramids.” Obviously, pictures and video are inadequate. The Mark Zuckerberg reference is to a picture that is often referred to as being humorously portentous of a future technocratic dystopia.

  10. Allen Wilson says:

    I found this:

    Mr Johnson is right. It’s all about making money for big business. The goggles are mere novelty, and tablet computers were pointless.

  11. Avatar photo Thomas Fleming says:

    I don’t want to inject a serious note, but the obsessions with AI, VR, and robots are coming together to produce some fantastic prognostications. Just a few days ago, some unlearned pundit was claiming that by 2050, we shall ALL be communicating directly with our brains, without the use of language. Think about this for just one moment. Obviously it isn’t true–the expensive technology required is not going to be made free to Africans et al, and the real effect of such a step would be to introduce one more gap between rich and poor.

    But consider what is beyond this impossible dream. Without words, what are our thoughts but impressions, feelings, intuitions. Language is the structure of thought, which is why we think one way and the Chinese another. Some communication would be possible with pure logic and numbers, but that would be on the level of AI, to which we would be reduced. In all such myths being generated today, there is at bottom a desire to destroy or replace the human race with extraterrestrials, computers, robots, and everything else subhuman.

  12. Khater M says:

    Speaking of wacky technological ideas, there is also 2045 Initiative

    I’m not exactly sure what transferring one’s personality into a machine would entail, but It seems like these people want to live forever as robots.

  13. James D. says:

    The elites search the stars for “proof” that God does not exist. I would take up a collection to send Elon Musk, Mark Zuckerberg, Jeff Bezos, etc. on a one-way trip to Mars. Heck, our tax dollars go to fund so much of their scheming, that it should be a requirement that they go first.

  14. Andrew G Van Sant says:

    Thomas Aquinas said that it is natural for people to want to live forever. That is part of his proofs for the existence of God and for our immortal souls. Of course the atheists do not believe in God, but because God exists and they have immortal souls they have the natural desire to live forever. Believing as they do, their only recourse is to have themselves uploaded to a computer or a robot. That is impossible.

  15. Allen Wilson says:

    It seems that there are twin reactions which atheists must have: either the desire for personal immortality in this world, or a desire to eliminate mankind. The dynamics of this would be interesting to study if one had the time.

    The desire to eliminate or replace humans via technology must have some connection with the desire of the elites to destroy our civilisation, ethnicities, cultures, local peculiarities, etc.

    Tim Leary and R.A. Wilson seem to have been a perfect blend of all the revolutionary desires of the modern age: occultism, eastern mysticism, ESP, the seeking of higher consciousness and ecstasy, desire for immortality, love of technology, space travel, mind altering drugs, cyborgism, extraterrestrials, channeling, kabala, you name it. Perhaps a good way to understand the follies of our age would be to study them as a sort of microcosm of it,. Of course one would have to know the background of all their ideas and the sources of them first or it would become a confusing muddle.

  16. Avatar photo Thomas Fleming says:

    On the mystic side, our summer school was a good start