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Strange Times at Santa Monica High

By Larry Elder (June 16, 2002)


What causes poverty?

A Santa Monica, Calif., high school teacher required his class to write an essay to address this question. Steve Miller, one of his students, attributed three things to poverty -- violent crime, government programs and irresponsible breeding. "In the United States," wrote Miller, "over the last 30 years, five trillion dollars (equated) have been spent battling poverty with no noticeable improvement. . . . Furthermore, according to the same study, when benefits for poor families are increased by one percent of the average personal income, the number of poor people living in a state increases by .8 percent." His teacher, a Bush-bashing, self-described liberal, gave him a low score of 58 out of 70.

An A-student in the class, Miller thought the grade unfair, a possible retaliation by the teacher against the young man's non-liberal worldview. To check, Steve approached a poor student in his class, and asked whether he might see his paper. That student wrote, "Economics is another reason that there is (sic) a lot of homeless people in the world, no job offers or anything. Some people are getting paid really low wages and they need the money sometimes so they can feed their kids or even thereselves (sic). welfare (sic) is really hard to get . . ." This student, too, received a 58.

What's worse, the poor student admitted that he began and finished his essay, barely over a page double-spaced, at around 4 o'clock that very morning. After asking the teacher to reconsider his grade -- a request that was declined -- Miller appeared on my radio show. He talked about liberal teachers who dislike non-liberal views, and who, in Miller's opinion, punish students for politically incorrect thinking.

Miller raised other issues. The California Education Code requires that grades K-12 "shall conduct patriotic exercises," interpreted to mean some patriotic activity like the Pledge of Allegiance. At Santa Monica High, however, administrators ignore the requirement. Miller asked several school officials to implement the policy, but officials informed Miller that they considered the Pledge of Allegiance optional, and refused to require its daily recitation.

Miller also questioned why a group called MEChA -- Movimiento Estudiantil Chicano de Aztlan -- receives student funds. After all, argued Miller, a look at MEChA's Web site indicates the group's intention to "retake" Southwestern America: California, Arizona, New Mexico, Texas, Colorado and Nevada. This suggests, says Miller, a violent overthrow of America, something seemingly inconsistent with school policy. Why, Miller earlier asked several administrators, does MEChA enjoy school support and funding?

Some months earlier, at Miller's request, I spoke at Santa Monica High School. Before my speech, however, an administrator informed me that they intended to invite a liberal speaker to "provide balance" to my non-liberal views. But Miller informed my listeners that, since my appearance, the school has invited liberal speakers, with no non-liberal speaker apparently necessary to provide "balance."

A Santa Monica High School administrator, following Miller's appearance on my show, met with him for over an hour. The administrator spent half of the session accusing Miller of untrustworthiness, essentially for airing dirty linen. "How do I know I can trust you?" said the administrator. In describing the meeting, Miller said, "(The administrator) mentioned that you (Elder) were more aggressive, that you were paid to incite emotion, and that liberal speakers . . . weren't trying to change minds, but were recounting life experiences. He said regarding speakers like you (Elder), he had to be mindful of the impact and safety . . . He told me he wished I wasn't so 'narrow-minded.'"

Why does an Elder speech require balance, but a conservative did not follow a recent speech by a liberal? The administrator informed Miller that Elder "attempted to change minds," while other liberal speakers simply expressed their own personal experiences!? And, finally and incredibly, the administrator advised Miller not to "latch on to causes"!

What about at the collegiate level? The Center for the Study of Popular Culture examined the political registration of Ivy League humanities professors. Their conclusion? Ivy League professors are 19 times more likely to be Democrats than Republicans. (Fifty-seven percent Democrat, 3 percent GOP). "All that this survey shows," said David Horowitz, president of the Center, "is what we already know, that the elite universities are subsidiaries of the Democratic Party and the political left." Diversity? Of the 10 presidents of the California University system, all opposed Proposition 209, the successful ballot initiative to rid race and gender preferences in public hiring, contracting, and college and university admissions.

Many American students study under welfare-state-supporting, gun-grabbing, Constitution-ignoring leftists who suppress dissent. A recent 6th Circuit Court of Appeals ruling upheld the race-based admissions policy of the University of Michigan School of Law. The rationale? The State of Michigan has a compelling state interest to seek "diversity." But, as Steve Miller's experience at Santa Monica High School suggests, the term "diversity" means that of race, not of opinion.


Ah yes Cherri, fine a example of your "open minded" leftist educators. I especially like the part about Movimiento Estudiantil Chicano de Aztlan receiving student funds, so that they can more efficiently plot the overthrow of America, LOL. Yup, nothing wrong in education today!

-- Uncle Deedah (, June 20, 2002


Larry Elders, a righteous bro! You know what I'm sayin? You go, man!

-- (, June 20, 2002.

Uncle Deedah, They aren't "my" "open minded" leftist educators. I went to military tech school, our subjects were not open for discussion.

I have no idea of why whomever said, did what they do in college, I've only taken refresher courses in digital electronics and architecture and Boolean algebra. I did take a course called "women in technology" which was some kind of weird touchy feelie crap that pissed me off from the first day when I was told to bring my chair up close to the other women. I explained that I would not do so because I do not care to have others invade my personal space. We had to write these things supposedly filled with philosophical crap which had nothing to do with women in technology. She wanted me to write about "my feelings". It was rather disgusting to me, personally. At the end she wanted us to write what we got out of the class and read it to everyone. By that time I was pretty pissed and wrote a sweet, charming pile of BS telling her how wonderful she had done. I then handed in the one I had written about how I actually felt about the class. I stated it was nothing more than a waste of time, her only goal was to use us to stroke her ego, helping her in her self masturbation of her ego. It had little to do with women in technology, but despite her "leadership" we did manage to get together and help each other out with the intricacies of working in non traditional fields.

I'm not the one to ask questions about how colleges play their games. After military tech school and a few major computer schools, I found college exceedingly boring and s l o w.

Welfare state supporting..are there no people who need welfare? (not able-bodied people capable of working and just choosing not to--they have all been kicked off the welfare rolls), gun grabbing....I think the NRA is crying wolf, always acting like "they" are going to take away their guns, (I've owned guns, and plan on getting another soon) I believe in background checks, a person with a criminal background of violence should not be allowed to own one, in my opinion.

Constitution-ignoring leftists who suppress dissent. On that one I think you should look around at what is happening today.

As for "rid race and gender preferences in public hiring, contracting, and college and university admissions." I believe it is time to get rid of most of those rules, they have outlived their intended purpose. They were necessary, very very necessary when they were implemented in the past. Society allowed blatant discrimination, the proof of the need for them was the amount of fight so many put up to prevent them being implemented in the first place. After two generations it is time to let ability decide who gets into what schools. But it was not always that way, there was a time when people were qualified and denied simply on the bases of color or gender. The gender part I experienced first hand, for decades. The problems existed. Now the attitudes have changed, those who were "allowed" in had to prove themselves, work hard to show they had what it took to be there. But as I said, it is past time to phase them out.

I don't understand why you demand that I "justify" or defend these situations. If the situation was unfair, it was unfair and there is no justification for it, liberal or conservative. I still hold some of my republican beliefs, but have discovered that blindly following the party into the extremes and corruption has disgusted me. As for being liberal, I have seen the need for integration and forced "quotas" in the past. Even while working at Boeing I saw résumé's discarded based on the fact that the person's sounded like a "black" name. When a person's ability to get a job is subject to prejudicial attitudes, that is wrong. Hopefully this "backlash" will not end up causing society to go backwards and race and sex become a detriment to a persons ability to be fairly considered for a school or job.

-- Cherri (whatever@who.cares), June 22, 2002.


I haven't demanded that you justify these situations. In another thread you told me the left isn't responsible for all that is bad. I agree with that, but do blame education woes (among other problems) on the left. I am merely bring your attention to an article which supports my assertion.

-- Uncle Deedah (, June 22, 2002.

Uncle Deedah, When it comes to education, I agree with you. We in Seattle we fortunate to get Gen. John Stanford as superintendant of schools. He turned them around, got rid of a lot of the old liberal ideas that had been implimented over the decades. Unfortunatly he died of Leukemia during his forth year serving, but the legacy lives on.

Here is an exert from his book (which he finished writing just before his death).

A tribute page to John Stanford shows how children can learn.

Jo hn Stanford John Stanford's book: a recipe for leadership

Part four in a series

Most people don't expect a general to talk about love. But we talk about love all the time, because love is a key leadership principle. Love is what the most famous military commanders use to inspire their troops to risk their lives in battle. It's what the most effective CEOs use to elicit maximum performance from their employees. It's what the best parents use to encourage their children to learn and grow. It's certainly what teachers and principals must use to get academic performance from their students. And it's what superintendents must use to lead their districts to achieve their visions.

Unfortunately, what I've found in the world of education is that most school districts don't have a vision that lives. Instead, after years and years of trying, and being beaten up, most school districts have essentially become dormant. They no longer believe that change is possible. They no longer believe that every child can learn.

My first year in the district, I went to several education conferences, and at every one, a superintendent took me aside. "You know, John," he or she would say, "you are new and too naive about the business of education. You must understand two things: one, that the School Board hired you to fire you; two, that you better start looking for someplace to fall."

What they meant was that no one - not my School Board, not my staff, not even my community - expected me to succeed. They seemed to share a common belief that there are no solutions for public education.

Now, I don't mean that those superintendents didn't want their children to succeed. They did! They and their administrators, principals and teachers were working incredibly hard to make that happen. But their strenuous and well-intentioned efforts were being sabotaged by an undercurrent of defeat. It was as if they were bound by a "culture of the Purple Heart," a culture in which they expected to fight hard and get wounded rather than fight hard and win.

This culture is endemic in public education. Educators have been persuaded that a child's social condition is a determinant of learning, and they carry this belief into the classroom. As a result, when homeless, or poor, or single-parent children begin to fall behind, they are allowed to slip rather than be held to the higher standards that have been set for their more advantaged peers.

This isn't intentional; no qualified teacher would knowingly let his or her students fail. But given the bleak circumstances of the children's lives, given the fact that many of these children fail time and time again, given the appallingly limited resources available to teachers in our public schools, it's easier to accept that the fault is in the child or in the family or in society as a whole than to believe that the responsibility and power to make change is in the schools.

The only way we can defeat the "culture of the Purple Heart" is with vision backed up with belief. When educators stop believing that change can't happen and start enthusiastically envisioning how it will, we will begin turning our schools around.

Find the child's strengths

I knew from the Army that all people don't excel in the same way. Time and again, I'd seen soldiers in training for one specialty moved to another if they didn't have the skills to make it in their chosen field. The Army found a way to work with the individual's strengths in order to help that person succeed. Well, I thought, schools need to be encouraging, flexible and accommodating, too. All our children can excel at something; our job is to find their strengths and then work with them until they succeed.

There was also another reason I believed we'd have to offer more than the basics. As I watched the children in our district, with their expensive sneakers and their logo-emblazoned clothes, as I listened to their conversations about computer games and MTV, as I thought about the world that some of them came from, a world of gangs and drugs and the illicit excitements of the streets, a world of 24-hour-a-day entertainment, I realized that for our schools to be successful, we would have to compete for our students' attention. If we wanted to reach them, we'd have to offer subjects they found meaningful and relevant. We'd have to use computers, videos and the Internet to create dynamic learning environments that matched the high-tech pace they were used to.

The burden was on us. If we wanted all our children to learn, then we would have to change the way we taught.

What I began to imagine was a different kind of school; not a school that focused on the basics with a sprinkling of art, music and sports on the side, but a school where a wealth of nontraditional experiences was integral to what and how the children learned; a school where students would study painting, music, dance and drama and then use those skills to demonstrate their understanding of history and literature.

How could we offer such a range of programs? Obviously we couldn't if we had to do it by ourselves; it would cost a fortune and we were losing $35 million. But we didn't have to do it by ourselves! The reading campaign had shown us that we could use the community to bring excitement and relevance to the schools and have an impact on student performance. Why not engage our community's strengths to make this expanded curriculum possible?

'Love them and lead them'

Sometimes I imagine the year 2050: I imagine a group of historians gathered at a table, discussing the world powers of the past. They mention the Incas, the Romans, the Ottomans, the Soviet Union . . . and to this list they add the United States. Why the United States? When was American supremacy lost? It was lost, in my fantasy, at the turn of the 21st century, when we failed to educate our children.

As an Army general, I had intimate knowledge of our nation's most pressing external dangers. Now, as a public-school superintendent, I see that the internal threat to our nation's survival is every bit as great. But we need not succumb. With a new kind of army, a citizens' army, we can win the battle for our schools. A community that is mobilized to help its schools is an unbeatable force. That's all it takes to create the public schools we need.

America, our children are waiting and we must not disappoint them. Let's all love them and lead them.

From the book "Victory in Our Schools: We CAN Give Our Children Excellent Public Education," by Maj. Gen. John Stanford.

Copyright © 1999 by John Stanford. Published by arrangement with Bantam Books, an imprint of The Bantam Dell Publishing Group, a division of Random House, Inc.

-- Cherri (whatever@who.cares), June 22, 2002.

"I am merely bring your attention to"??

Yup, nothing wrong in education today!

-- heehaaw! (rightwing@grammar.flunkie), June 22, 2002.

LOL, Yup, I'm a prime example.

-- Uncle Deedah (, June 22, 2002.

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