Authentic Discussion Naming Names



“There is no intelligence in Washington. Only arrogance and hubris. The quarter century I spent there was with the most utterly stupid people on the face of the earth.” — Paul Craig Roberts, former Assistant Secretary of the Treasury under Reagan, author of Another Step Toward Devastating War

“The EPA was run like the Mafia for the twenty-five years I was with them.” — E.G. Vallianatos, former EPA scientist and author of Poison Spring: The Secret History of Pollution and the EPA

I home school youngsters all along the demographic spectrum, including students with learning disabilities, gifted children, poor kids of color, privileged kids who live in gated communities… the whole kit and caboodle. And if any of my charges expressed the thrust of what Reagan’s former Assistant Secretary of the Treasury stated in the opening quote above, I know that they wouldn’t be given the time of day in today’s classrooms. They might be allowed to say somethingon the run, but the run-of-the-mill instructor would have to get on with testing, honoring the lesson plan that had been prepared, etc.

Only in the most rare of circumstances would leisurely time be set aside for in-depth consideration of such a negative take on our federal government, if any at all. One does not have to agree with Roberts’ evaluation to acknowledge that my main point here has validity. Educators speak blithely about encouraging thinking outside the proverbial box. I find that that’s usually just socially acceptable talk. And all talk comes to a halt if it becomes a threat in terms of a teacher’s paycheck. Pleasing the powers that be rules. Honoring the arbitrary parameters imposed on one and all is de rigueur because thinking outside the box can quickly lead to a discussion about the need to smash the boxVerboten. Like playing Monster Mash midst a meeting on Mozart.

Same respecting the esteemed whistleblower Vallianatos and what he has to offer. There is what can and cannot be said, in the spirit of that new book by Arundhati Roy and John Cusack.

Why? What is the treadmill that our students must stay on? For careers in Washington, D.C? For counterparts in the U.S. Military, the greatest single polluter on earth, by certain standards? In legal circles, which have less and less ethical standards embraced by the day? In the realm of Silicon Valley or midst other corporate standard fare? Where one contributes to unimaginable horror.

I can’t stand the justifications for encouraging youngsters to follow their passions in those areas, especially when no time is set aside for arguing against such counsel. For in-depth analysis of the pros and cons. For old-fashioned argument, debate.

Who — exactly — is responsible for our horrid momentum, if not those I’ve placed in a dark spotlight here? Along with complicit others, who — also — are not called onto the carpet in academia, except minimally… on the run.

And why should we expect academics to call a spade a spade when the bottom line of the institutions who pay them is all caught up with pleasing the donors who dwell in the dark spotlights I’ve cited.

When my home schooled youngest — my own son — was six years old, he asked if I would take him to Stanford University to speak against water privatization in Bolivia. He was a budding Mozart of Geopolitics from the time he was three years old, and so I didn’t hesitate to honor his wish, very much looking forward to what he was going to say to those on campus, of course.

But although what he had to say was fascinating, and riveting for the crowd that began to form near the steps that he chose to speak from, his speech was not nearly as impressive to me as his choice of venue.

He chose to speak in front of Bechtel International, a building which hosts meetings for students and research scholars on the prestigious campus.  A corporation which Stanford has given its imprimatur to for a very long time, during which they’ve both been complicit in crimes against humanity and geocide.

Stanford is the domain of insane operations. In a great many of its departments. Had a war criminal serve as its provost not too long ago. Is guilty of a tremendous number of abominations worldwide on an ongoing basis. In fact, every week Bechtel and Stanford combined do more damage to the world than all the U.S. incarcerated population could possibly do in a year if they were suddenly released unsupervised.

So why are so many students with promise — youngsters we’re all depending on to do the right thing for the Collective Good — smiling in the hall of Bechtel on campus?

I can’t tell you. I mean, I’m not able to. I can only guess, at best. But what I can tell you is that my son and I were escorted off of campus the day of his presentation, cut off from completing what he had to say by campus security. No interest shown in the amazing phenomenon he embodied, the dynamics he generated destroyed.

So much for free speech on campus. So much for critical thinking on campus. So much for honoring what’s worthy of attention, inquiry. So much for higher education.

So much to regret about what educators on the lower levels of our educational ladder are tolerating, aiding and abetting, setting up for a future not worth living in. Over what? Grant money? Access to abominable people? Your guess is as good as mine.

All educators are obliged to embrace a new role proactively — and at great personal risk (because their employers generally idolize the likes of Stanford University) — whereby they will encourage their students to dissent, and do something truly fresh about preventing nuclear war and halting our ecocidal momentum.

It can begin with authentic discussion of our collective crises, naming names… long before another quarter of a century passes. Yesterday would be a good day to begin.

Richard Martin Oxman has been an educator and activist for over half-a-century. He would be honored to speak gratis at any educational institution which makes a request at [email protected].


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