Wednesday, January 12, 2022

The Pessimist Club


A long-time fellow teacher at our school instituted a club. She and I were the only members, switching off Presidency depended on who brought the best offering. Titled, “The Pessimist Club,” the idea was to share news items that stretched the boundaries of just how absurd, stupid, bizarre and just plain crazy human beings can be. The stories had to be true, but skirt the boundaries of belief. To give you a taste, here’s a couple I remember from over 30 years of club membership: 


• Two men in the South were having an argument over a passage in the Bible and one of them beat the other one to death...with his Bible.


• 57% of Americans think that we shouldn't teach Arabic numerals in school. Even though, of course, our numerals ARE Arabic. 


You get the idea. The club was put on hold somewhat during our last four years at school (we both retired in 2020) because every day the news was one Pessimist Club item after another. And the echoes of that insanity continue to resound. As in this latest item I found posted in the Daily Kos: 


The Republican assault on the teaching of “divisive concepts” like the existence of racism continues, and a new bill proposed in Indiana makes it ever more clear that this is an all-out assault on public education itself. The bill drew attention when one of its co-authors said that teachers should be impartial in teaching about Nazism. State Sen. Scott Baldwin’s appalling comment came in response to a brave question from history teacher Matt Bockenfeld. 

“For example, it’s the second semester of U.S. history, so we're learning about the rise of fascism and the rise of Nazism right now,” Bockenfeld said at a committee hearing on the bill. “And I'm just not neutral on the political ideology of fascism. We condemn it, and we condemn it in full, and I tell my students the purpose, in a democracy, of understanding the traits of fascism is so that we can recognize it and we can combat it.”

Bockenfeld expressed concern that the bill would prevent that teaching, saying, “Of course, we're neutral on political issues of the day. We don't stand up and say who we voted for or anything like that. But we're not neutral on Nazism. We take a stand in the classroom against it, and it matters that we do.”

Baldwin took exception to that. “I have no problem with the education system providing instruction on the existence of” Nazism, fascism, or Marxism, he said. “I believe that we've gone too far when we take a position on those isms ...  We need to be impartial.”


Impartial on Nazism. For as he-who-shall-not-be-named once said, “There are good people on both sides.” And the slaves were happy and well-cared for, the Ku Klux Klan is a respectable civic organization and QAnon is a trustworthy factual research center. That’s what our kids should be learning.


It’s a field day for the Pessimist Club. Anyone want to join?


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