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Travis Rowley: Liberalism:  The Source of Societal Rot

Saturday, February 16, 2013


“[Political correctness] is dangerous…It muffles people. It puts a muzzle on them. And at the same time keeps people from discussing important issues while the fabric of their society is being changed. We cannot fall for that trick.” – Dr. Benjamin Carson

While widely discussed throughout the media, something went largely unreported when it came to Dr. Benjamin Carson’s conservative speech at the annual National Prayer Breakfast. During the opening minutes of his remarks, Carson offered a scathing – and seemingly out-of-place – rebuke of political correctness. Carson called political correctness “a horrible thing” and warned that “the PC police are out in force at all times.” “We’ve reached a point where people are afraid to actually talk about what they want to say because somebody might be offended…We’ve got to get over this sensitivity.”

Confirming that political correctness is largely a left-wing phenomenon, a week later Rhode Islanders could find executive director of Marriage Equality RI Ray Sullivan objecting to putting the question of gay marriage before the voters because it “would be divisive and hurtful.” Sullivan explained, “If you ask someone how they would feel about, for example, sitting down to dinner watching the news or listening to the radio and seeing or hearing a commercial that was essentially attacking their family, I think they would tell you that that’s not something that they would want to see.”

A Liberal Education

At its core, political correctness is anti-intellectual, one of its central components being a willingness and tendency to hide reality in the name of soft-bellied sensitivity and/or hard-core political agendas – to create a society of silence that can only lead to serious academic error.

The notable irony is that political correctness is an obvious enemy of academia, yet has managed to conquer the culture of our educational system.

So it is simply no wonder to witness union apologists and progressive activists resisting the light that has recently been shone on the failure of the Providence school system, and the tough reforms that have been proposed.

As GoLocalProv reported, during recent years the RI Dept. of Education “has increased its emphasis on improving test scores in the annual New England Common Assessment Program (NECAP), so much so that beginning next year students will have to show that they are at least ‘partially proficient’ in both the math and reading portions of the exam to graduate with their classmates.”

This is what amounts to a nightmare for government programs: Being “partially proficient.”

What Is “Educated”?

While more and more people are becoming aware that NECAP standards place the large majority of Providence students “at risk of not graduating,” progressive activists are doing their best to publicize their top excuses for urban educational failure (i.e. “these kids are poor”), and also sound as sophisticated as possible when they propose their most obvious argument: There’s more to being a student than the knowledge one attains.

“Test scores are just one indication of where students are,” explained Representative Edith Ajello (D). “They don’t tell the whole story…I just think that when you look at test scores, it’s important to consider the demographics.”

Robert Walsh of NEA-RI said that his union is “opposed to reliance on a single test for determining a student’s future.” Steven Brown of the ACLU argued, “It is unfortunate to see time and resources wasted teaching to a test, rather than teaching what should be taught.” Carole Marshall, a Providence school teacher, agreed: “Standardized testing is not good teaching; in fact it's depriving Providence students of the education they could be getting.”

Oh, yes. Right up until the point of the enforcement of NECAP standards, Providence students were just dominating within the realm of educational intangibles.

Like teamwork!

Simply Unqualified

Educational complexity has long been recognized. That’s why we have things called “extracurriculars,” “teacher recommendations,” and “oral interviews.” And that’s why graduating seniors are only required to be “partially proficient” when it comes to standardized testing.

All of this left-wing waffling serves only to blur another plain reality – Certain levels of knowledge and know-how are necessary before students can progress toward subsequent educational phases.

As another progressive structure begins to crumble, we see liberals making the less measurable claim that Providence pupils just may be fantastic – even superior – in other ways. And are thereby college-ready and deserving of a diploma.

But are we supposed to accept the word of the self-interested? That is, students who want to graduate. That is, teachers who want to keep their jobs. That is, unionists with a shameful history of shielding themselves from competition, scrutiny, and evaluation.

And isn’t it notable that, even before the “increased pressure” that began five years ago with the announcement of approaching NECAP standards, college students from urban school districts had depressingly low graduation rates? Numerous studies reflect the same discovery: “Students who are low-income, minority, or first-generation are the most likely to drop out [of college].” And “the graduation rates for blacks, Latinos, and Native Americans lag far behind the graduation rates for whites and Asians.”

Only pigheaded progressives deny that the Left’s culture of political correctness has greatly contributed to the tragedy that Dr. Carson mentioned within his speech, his discovery of a “6th grade exit exam from the 1800s, a test you had to pass to get your 6th grade certificate.” Carson said, “I doubt most college graduates today could pass that test. We have dumbed things down to that level.”

Nevertheless, progressives remain persistent in their efforts to thrust unqualified students into the college system – convinced that such action will be inconsequential; convinced that such students won’t be a drag on the standards of the institutions they ascend to; convinced that they aren’t setting these students up for failure and the elimination of all that self-esteem they built up years ago when they banned red ink and kickball.

The Price of Spanish

When it was revealed by the New York Times several years ago that only “7 percent of students [were] proficient in mathematics by 11th grade” at Central Falls High School, the Left was quick to blame this failure on the fact that many of the students were ESL – English as a Second Language.

Here we discover the Left informing the taxpayers of another simple observation – the near impossible task of an English-speaking teacher to instruct a Spanish-speaking teenager.
But we should remember exactly who has always demanded that immigrants be able to speak English – the “language of success” – before being granted American citizenship; and warned that the immersion of the Spanish language into American society would be costly for everyone.

Likewise, we should remember who precisely was defying such standards with charges of “racism” and “xenophobia” – resulting in the voices of sound public policy being silenced throughout the nation for decades.

Within this current controversy, we discover the whole of the Rhode Island Left agreeing with Rep. Ajello, when she points to Providence’s “large population of students living in poverty and large percentage of students who are English-language learners as two of the challenges Providence faces.”

Once again, we find that the benefactors of political correctness are often the most harmed. Thousands of uneducated and illiterate Hispanic children each year are thrust into lives of poverty and despair.

If you can’t read this, thank a liberal!

Ignoring The Root Cause

The failure of urban school systems is the educational equivalent of the financial collapse of Central Falls, a city that truly crumbled over 20 years ago when statewide taxpayers were forced to pick up the city’s entire educational tab – only to delay the inevitable flop of a community built upon a collectivist foundation.

Ultimately, this is why many conservatives hesitate to support calls to have the State’s non-profits begin contributing to Providence’s tax base. While sympathetic to the concept of tax fairness and the city’s financial conditions, no more Rhode Islanders should be forced to support the socialism that finances the Left’s failures and unsustainable projects.

No more additions should be added to this building until the progressive termites have been exterminated.

Citizens of every city and town need to begin to relearn how to educate themselves and their children, and how to create their own wealth – rather than have wealth redistributed from communities that employ a superior culture.

But this can only occur once we choose to reject political correctness, stop treating people like infants, start telling people the truth, and force them to grow up.

Travis Rowley (TravisRowley.com) is the author of The RI Republican: An Indictment of the Rhode Island Left.


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Another great column, Mr. Rowley. The obvious anti-intellectual influence of political correctness, the refusal to see blatant factual and statistical realities because they conflict with some ideology, is supremely ironic.

And your question, "But are we supposed to accept the word of the self-interested?" is a great one. We are very quick to see conflicts of interest in any interactions between business and government, but for some reason unions and certain occupations (e.g., teachers and lawyers) get a pass. There is no logical justification for this.

Comment #1 by Kenneth Amylon on 2013 02 16

Liberals, Progressives, Socialists, Communists, Collectivists, Statists, Democrats, etc::: You are pathetic.

Great work, Travis.

Comment #2 by Jeremy Soninjer on 2013 02 16

Great read, Mr. Rowley. I would love for this to get picked up nationally. RI is a microcosm for the progressive ineptitude that is sweeping the nation. People cannot fix a problem if they are not willing to identify what causes it.

Comment #3 by Mateo C on 2013 02 16

There are so many great points in this extremely well written article. It deserves wider distribution.

The big tragedy of the politically correct educational system is that it sucks innocent young people into a culture of happy mediocrity where thinking and achieving through personal effort are downplayed or dismissed, and where collective dumbness is rewarded. Students are not being served, and I wonder how they will compete in a global economy where students from other countries ARE getting practical educations and gaining real knowledge.

Comment #4 by Art West on 2013 02 16

This guy still contributes to GoLocal.com, spouting his hard core conservatism? Didn't he get the memo from the voters this past election? It seems so ironic that someone like Rowley would have the nerve to point the finger at his opposition and call them haters!!!

And........what has political correctness got to do with an individual's stance on the issues? I can't stand political correctness but I am a middle-of-the-road type of person with regards to politics. I believe that hard core right wingers and hard core left wingers are all off their rockers.

Please do away with political correctness but bring back common sense!!

Comment #5 by Tom Kenney on 2013 02 16

Tom- I have noticed that while you are a strong pro union guy,otherwise you're not some ultra liberal-however what passes for "progressive" in RI is interesting-if you support enforcement of Fedral immigration laws you're a "racist"(usually mouthed by some lily white East Sider or Brown student)and if you want to discuss gun issues in real terms,you're "bathed in children's blood"a true paraphrase from some asswipe on Kmareka in response to my skepticism regarding weapons bans.I have gotten to really despise"progressives"and everythig they are about.

Comment #6 by Joseph Bernstein on 2013 02 17

one more thing-the voters may have spoken,but those who voted for a piece of dirt like Cicilline over Doherty are either insane or easily fooled

Comment #7 by Joseph Bernstein on 2013 02 17

continueing joes comment ----or feeding at the trough and contributiong nothing and dont wnat to get off.

Comment #8 by jon paycheck on 2013 02 17

@jon paycheck - is that what you think I do??? pure hate!!

@Joe - I agree about the attacks that the ultra liberals put on conservatives (racist, etc) but there is equal anymosity by the ultra conservatives on liberals (socialists, freeloaders, feeding at the trough, etc).

I think anyone who lumps their opposition as the devil is the real problem - NOTHING will ever get fixed if we all look at things that way!

For the record....I hate bleeding heart liberals (and political correctness run amuck) and hard core conservatives equally. You might say that I'm an equal opportunity hater!

Comment #9 by Tom Kenney on 2013 02 17

@Tom-you won't hear me bashing public employees if they do their jobs conscientiously and honestly nor the Food Stamp program nor WIC,etc as long as there is a serious attempt to weed out fraud.I think my main problem is with people who seem born to meddle where they aren't needed-people like Seth Yurdin-I didn't get to my late 60's so this snotrag can tell me what is acceptable for me to own for personal/family protection-when Yurdin was born I was a sergeant in Vietnam-so he can stick his progressive ideas up his rear end.And immigration-well,when we decide to ignore a body of law because it "feels good" to do so,where may we be headed?

Comment #10 by Joseph Bernstein on 2013 02 17

I agree with you on both counts Joe! I have never been a big Democratic supporter....I'm more against conservative anti-labor candidates and people. They also attempt to tell people how they should live.

Comment #11 by Tom Kenney on 2013 02 17

We all must know that Travis is right. Certainly it is evident that our educational system is a failure. I have hired at least 100 people in my life and started a dozen businesses. Most of the hires were college grads but not all. The basic standard for hiring in my businesses was first reviewing a transcript and then second, based upon our needs, choosing applicants for follow up interviews. It didn't take too long for us to determine that a 3.2 at NYU was very different from a 3.2 at Pace University. Both are fine schools but, like it or not, NYU students tended to be more prepared, smarter and subsequently scored much higher on our own testing procedures. And while testing was only the third phase for us each year. It wasn’t too many years before our managers learned where to look for potential employees. Some school dropped of their lists. That lost reputation is not quantified in reports but I guarantee it exists. For those who hire right out of high school or accept students for college programs the same bias exists. If a school consistently puts out a bad product( ie. an unprepared student)then businesses and higher education will believe that school’s product is no good. That is what is happening today in Rhode Island. We don’t need job programs to train young people for todays jobs. We need people with real high school educations that can read and write and understand basic finance. We owe it to our kids to prepare them for life.
Just this weekend I watched commissioner Gist as she painfully dealt with the issue of holding teachers accountable for below standard work.You could see she was embarrassed by how little the union has bent and It was a very sad moment for the teachers union in Rhode Island to hear the description of how the new “accountable system” would review and get rid of failing teachers. It was so weak I am tempted to say don’t even bother.
When Travis Rowley says “the notable irony is that political correctness is an obvious enemy of academia, yet has managed to conquer the culture of our educational system.So it is simply no wonder to witness union apologists and progressive activists resisting the light that has recently been shone on the failure of the Providence school system, and the tough reforms that have been proposed.” He has hit the nail on the head.
No longer can the Unions and teachers believe their own press. They have to feel in their hearts that the system is failing their own kids. It is also failing the best teachers. The best students and teachers know what should be happening and the changes that are necessary but they are afraid to speak out. They know that those, “with a shameful history of shielding themselves from competition, scrutiny, and evaluation ” , yield great influence and are the cause of great frustration and poor performance.

Comment #12 by michael riley on 2013 02 18

Another great article Travis. I admire your creative solutions. I agree wholeheartedly because next thing you know, women will want go to school and own property and there will be mayhem. Keep up the good work and you will attain all your goals. Democratic dominance and tenure at golocal. I have to go Rush is coming on.

Comment #13 by Petr Petrovich on 2013 02 18

Travis, great article. I am continuously amazed that people don't link policies with outcomes. Providence will never be a successful city because of all of the liberal abuses. Detroit: Democrats. Chicago: democrats. Etc., Etc, Etc.

Comment #14 by Dave Barry on 2013 02 19

Explain Boston?

Comment #15 by Petr Petrovich on 2013 02 19

Funny Petr should mention Boston. This came out today. ----

"The costliest metropolitan area in New England was Bridgeport (46% above average), followed by Boston (40%), New Haven (28%), Hartford (24%) and Providence." - http://blogs.wpri.com/2013/02/20/study-cost-of-living-in-providence-23-above-national-average/

Sounds lovely for the average working man.

Comment #16 by Jeremy Soninjer on 2013 02 20

Lack of "ACCOUNTABILITY" is for unethical and criminal behavior is what is rotting society. The only time RI's corrupt political system is held accountable is when the U.S. Justice system is forced to intervene.

Comment #17 by Charles Marsh on 2013 02 28

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