I’m not sure if it’s an empirically-verifiable trend, or just anecdotal evidence on my TV and various social media timelines, but it seems like we’ve reached peak whining about “playing politics.” My state is the site of some closely-contested congressional elections. Thus, we’ve been bombarded with foreboding intonations that ruefully cluck “candidate x is just playing politics,” as if a politician playing politics is somehow surprising and out of character. WHEN DID THIS HAPPEN? I’M SO CONFUSED. I’ve also been following the GamerGate goings-on*, wherein these poor delicate snowflakes–when not trafficking in self-righteous, whiny misogyny–decry the influence of those they call SJWs (social justice warriors) in the gaming scene. Gaming used to be its own awesome place, they say, before these interlopers made everything all “political” with their feminism and stuff. And hardly a day goes by when we don’t hear someone lamenting the fact that everything was OK until someone “made it political,” or started to “play politics,” or “brought politics into it”–like someone peed in the pool. THANKS, LOSER. NOW WE CAN’T SWIM ANYMORE.
One of the most contentious issues in pedagogy, at least in my experience, has been the proper use and place of technology–both in and outside of the classroom. Enthusiastic proselytizers of All Things EdTech argue that we should ALL be using these KILLER TOOLS to ENGAGE STUDENTS because DIGITAL NATIVES INTERACTIVE PEDAGOGY CONNECTED CLASSROOMS. On the other end of the spectrum is the anti-EdTech crowd that argues that all this emphasis on technology detracts from the Real Work of the Teacher, that it’s all smoke and mirrors that dilutes effective pedagogy (Full disclosure: I am a recovering Luddite, and made that argument repeatedly earlier in my career). Of course, these opposing ends of the spectrum eventually degenerate into self-caricature, but there is a rousing debate in between these two poles. Yet, it’s become a debate that generates more heat than light.
So I’ve been reading a lot of pushback against the new AP US history curriculum lately, much of it from the political right, and almost all of it lamenting the lack of emphasis on “American Exceptionalism” or “what made the country great.” A good amount of it is the standard hand-wringing along the lines of “Where are all the famous white people? George Washington was more important than Harriet Tubman, for Crissakes!” and “We’re the good guys [and it is always ‘we’ in these screeds]! Democracy, freedom, and [insert platitude here] are our gift to the world.” Most of this stuff is easy to ignore because it’s so predictable, and it descends into unintentional self-parody quicker than you can disprove the Laffer Curve. Continue reading ““American Exceptionalism,” Teaching Patriotism, and Other Lazy Fallacies”