The Dark Sarcasm in the Classroom
Editor’s Note: This is a Guest Submission, the first in a long while, and I thank the author for giving us a window into the conditions in the contemporary college classroom. I present to you Johnanne Galt:
“We don’t often think of Texas as being a progressive state, but at one point we were a very progressive state. We haven’t always been as backwards as we are today.” – Professor Doug Hales, February 28th, 2012, Temple Junior College
Thirteen years ago I was in fourth grade, attending my Texas History class just as I would during any other school day. Despite a memory-destroying automobile collision since, I still remember my first encounter with the all-too-common biased teacher. Growing up listening to talk radio, watching C-SPAN, and studying my father’s old college history textbooks, I was able to quickly recognize someone who offered up her ever-growing string of opinions, instead of presenting facts. She told the class that Texas was blooming with savages who brutalized Indians and Mexicans to grab more land, essentially filling our heads with the evil of the Texians. I remember briefly questioning her before she threatened to send me to the principal’s office for disrupting class. As I’ve done for many years, I merely pushed her garbage from my mind and instead turned to gaining [mostly]un-biased knowledge from my father. I later had a similar experience in high school after informing a “history teacher” that we weren’t a democracy, but that the states are instead guaranteed by our constitution a representative, republican form of government. Once again, I was told that if I didn’t close my mouth, I would be punished.
As a grown, married woman attending a small community college, I am facing this situation once again. The one particular difference I’d like to discuss in this encounter is the outcome. I simply will not remain silent as the teacher, or professor in this case, continues to shove his propaganda down students’ throats. You see, today’s display of an absolute lack of factual evidence was the final straw to fall on the enormous pile of deceit that has been placed upon my back by the education system. Today, I will fight back, and offer up a view into the classroom of an agenda-spewing figurehead. This is intended for the parents who unknowingly send their children off to institutions of opinion rather than fact; for students who work tirelessly to place themselves in classrooms in pursuit of degrees but instead are insulted; for the taxpayers who hand over large portions of their paychecks so that other “less fortunate” citizens and non-citizens will learn of the evil of Republicans, and for the administrations of schools everywhere who unwittingly enable the behavior of power-hungry instructors who take advantage of their positions within the one structure where so many parents feel safe sending their children.
This semester, Spring 2012, I am once again attempting to complete the History II class required for my degree. I first signed up for the class in 2010, instructed by another professor, Gretchen Reilly, but found myself quickly dropping the class after she began to “teach” us that “the colonists were stupid, and the British had every right to do what they did.” I asked around prior to signing up for the class this year, hoping I could perhaps find an instructor with less bias, and who would insult our nation less while teaching the facts more. A co-worker of mine told me that Doug Hales, a professor at Temple Junior College, was “boring” and not biased at all. To me, the general description of “boring” among people my age is assigned to things and people who are truly educational, so in a very excited manner, I signed up for Mr. Hale’s class. Less than ten minutes into my first day of class, I was faced with the dreadful realization that I had placed myself into an indoctrination camp once more. Here are some things that Hales told the class that I found worthy of typing down for later review:
“Railroads could never be built without the federal government’s assistance”.
“A monopoly is a bad thing, one person can set the price of a commodity.”
“Who does J.P. Morgan remind you of on television? Mr. Burns, the evil rich man on The Simpson’s.”
“Can anyone tell me what socialism is?” (someone in the class answers “when the government regulates and runs everything”) “Yes. That’s why big businesses hate socialism, because the government regulates things. Socialism is empowerment of the worker.”
[During the time surrounding the Agrarian Revolt] “…farmers faced bad weather, soil erosion, insect infestations, changing prices, high freight rates, high interest rates, and lots of debt because big banks were more than willing to loan out money. They would then just take the farms.” [This started the Populist party, and] “…you could say our President today is a populist.”
“It was disastrous when there wasn’t a central bank, it was chaotic, as there were no set interest rates.”
“Farmers began to depend on railroads to transport their produce, and they had no choice but to pay the high fees, so they went bankrupt and couldn’t pay back the loans to the banks. There needed to be regulation of the railroads.”
“The people’s party, or the Populist party, wanted a flexible currency controlled by the government, public ownership of the railroads, and were anti-tariff. They also wanted the income tax, but only for the rich people. They wanted their country back, so they began to tax the rich.”
This last statement provoked me to say something. I raised my hand and asked “so, they punished success?” He replied “that wasn’t their intent. They just wanted power, since they were the 95%.” I asked “Is that why they advocated violence, like today’s Occupy crowd?” He responded “yes, well, some of them. Most of the Occupy people are anarchists”. I don’t have to tell you that the Occupy crowd as a whole is not of the anarchist mindset, considering they want all of their debt forgiven, their school paid for and the prices of tuition regulated by the government, etc, but I let it go.
Moving on, Hales began to speak about the election of 1896. He told us that “Mark Hanna and a lot of industrialists had a secret meeting wherein they picked William McKinley, who advocated a high tariff. They bought McKinley’s nomination. Now, William Jennings Bryan, who was nominated by the Populists, used a railroad car to meet people. McKinley never really campaigned; he would go out on his lawn once a week and give a speech. McKinley only wins because Republicans had all of the money.” I asked “I thought you said he was well-liked?” “Yes, by the Republicans.” I had to wonder, how did McKinley win the election if only the 5%, the “rich Republicans”, liked him? Again, this is merely more propaganda.
Hales later began to talk about Civil Service Reform. He started off by stating “there’s always been a lot of corruption in government, but what we have now is nothing compared to the corruption we had in the 19th century. The industrialists were putting their people in office.” Can he honestly be serious? Again, this is an opinion based solely on his skewed theory regarding our government.
During a discussion surrounding the formation of the United States Navy, Hales said this:
“Not many people know this, but Jimmy Carter was a nuclear physicist in the Navy before he became President. Maybe he should have stayed in the Navy.”
Despite my inclination to agree, this is still an opinion, and still an insult, regardless of who it’s directed at.
Then came my absolute favorite subject, Theodore Roosevelt and Progressivism. I immediately began typing down what he was saying, as I knew it was bound to be as twisted as it could possibly be. The following is a series of quotes from his lecture:
“What progressivism was, it began in early 20th century, was an urban grassroots movement. Progressivism was a movement to root out corruption in the cities and reform national government, so that the government would pay attention to people and not big businesses. The progressivists wanted to take away power from big industrialists who were running everything and wanted people involved in issues of the day.”
“Scholars believed Roosevelt was our best president ever, then Abraham Lincoln, according to the most recent poll.”
“You just can’t not like the man, we’re going to talk about him because he was one of our greatest presidents. In many respects he’s a genius.”
“He began to root out corruption as a New York Governor, which is what progressives do. Boss Platt ran New York, and Roosevelt had problems with him. Roosevelt was a Republican, and so was Platt. Platt convinced McKinley to run for re-election and put Roosevelt on the ticket for the vice-president, and being a vice-president is a career-ruiner, because the Constitution gives the vice-president limited power.”
“Boss Platt’s worst nightmare, Roosevelt, becomes president when McKinley gets assassinated. When Roosevelt was elected, it was like a breath of fresh air.”
“Remember, he’s a Republican, and Republicans are run by big business. Well, he went after big business. He was a supreme moralist. He saw the Presidency as almost being a high priest, and would never have done what Clinton did in office.”
“The only thing he didn’t do was tariff reform, because he didn’t want to totally antagonize his Republican supporters. The Anti-Sherman Trust act was only as good as the people enforcing it, and he enforced it. He reopened the E.C. Knight case which showed that the Supreme Court was in the back pocket of big business by not ruling against the sugar company because the Court would not overturn the case, and Roosevelt threatened to replace them with new justices who WOULD overturn the case. In 1904, they reversed their previous ruling, and ordered E.C. Knight to break into several companies, and sugar prices fell by 3/4. The only reason the prices got so high is because one company owned them all.”
“Roosevelt announced that he’s going to file suit against J.P. Morgan’s northern securities. Morgan finds out, calls Roosevelt and says “listen Teddy”, which was a big mistake. He didn’t show any respect, and said “just have your lawyer talk to my lawyer, we’ll solve it behind the scenes” and Roosevelt said he was going to break it up. The court ordered it to be broken up because it was a monopoly. Roosevelt then became known as the “Trust Buster” by the American people. He said there were good and bad trusts, and “I do not want to break big corporations up but regulate them”, and created the modern regulatory government. Then he wants to go after Rockefeller. Don’t feel sorry for Rockefeller, he made a lot of money after Standard Oil was broken up into many companies.”
On Tuesday, Mr. Hales continued his speech on progressivism, and literally caused my jaw to drop when he said the following: “We don’t often think of Texas as being a progressive state, but at one point we were a very progressive state. We haven’t always been as backwards as we are today.” At that point, I scooped up my laptop and jacket swiftly exiting the classroom, mumbling “sure, spread some more of your propaganda” as I left. I walked to my car and cried, wondering how it could be possible for this professor to be paid to not only insult our state, but to insult me and my money. I immediately called my husband, and was wordless for a moment before I could collect my thoughts and utter “I don’t know what to do.” Thanks to tenure, teachers and professors are allowed to teach however they’d like, and say whatever they deem appropriate to their students, so I was at a loss with regard to what to do. Fortunately, I was encouraged to speak up rather than dropping History II again due to my frustration with the perpetual spiral of bias that drowned me in the classroom.
History, as far as I know, is a subject about recorded facts. The past is comprised of things that occurred, rather than what people think about past events today. In fact, I’ll go one step further and provide the first entry in the dictionary under the word “history” – “the branch of knowledge dealing with past events.” Mr. Hales’ opinions are that “Republicans are run by big business”, that “Teddy Roosevelt was one of our greatest presidents”, and that “when Roosevelt became President, it was like a breath of fresh air”. I did not pay several hundred dollars, aside from the textbook, to sit in a classroom and hear a man attempt to sway students in one political direction or another with regard to our nation’s past. Had that been my desire, I could have simply stayed at home, saving money, time and gas, and listened to Rush Limbaugh, which now seems preferable.
For a professor to proclaim that “socialism is empowerment of the worker,” is sickening, but to try to imprint that opinion, or any opinion disguised as fact upon a student’s mind is exceedingly vile. I do not wish for Mr. Hales to preach the good or evil of socialism or progressivism, but instead to educate his students using facts, allowing us to formulate our own thoughts and opinions on such topics, using logic combined with those ever-precious facts that make up the history we know. This sad, escalating trend of distortion in the classroom must be stopped if we are to gain anything of value from the attendance of classes whose subject matter should be based almost solely upon facts and evidence. I hope that professors who present their opinions as credible information can understand why a student might feel betrayed by the education system as a whole. As a student at Temple Junior College attending only as my finances will permit, I would very much enjoy the opportunity to complete this class having gained something other than a distrust of their standard of academic and intellectual integrity.