Tuesday, October 03, 2006

Revenge of the Rubes

I haven't seen this kind of excitement coming out of Tennessee since that Scopes Monkey Trial. What would Spencer Tracy think of this story? They're not just challenging books there in Tennessee; they're challenging anything they don't already know.

Some rubes in Lewisburg, Tennessee are protesting that the Marshall County Memorial Library bought (gasp) some books in Spanish. Oh, and they own some books in Japanese, Russian, Polish, and French. It's a travesty! It's a disgrace!

But then that library done went and done something worser! The protest started when the library hired somebody who also spoke a language other than English. What is the world coming to!? Some poor library worker of Puerto Rican descent who speaks English but also Spanish and in addition knows Sign Language has been under scrutiny by the ever vigilant public of Lewisburg with people calling the director wanting to know why the "library would hire a bilingual person and if they checked her social security." Why would the library hire a bilingual person? Apparently the rubes want the library to give a test something like this: Do you know any foreign languages? Well, I can order a beer in five different languages. I'm sorry, you're much too knowledgeable for us, you pointy-headed intellectual.

So there, you bilingual Puerto Rican person, why don't you go back to your own country!

Oh, wait, I think Puerto Rico might have some political connection with the United States. That's the kind of interesting fact one might learn in junior high social studies if the campaign for ignorance weren't being led by a local social studies teacher. Here's a statement from a junior high social studies teacher in Lewisburg during his library protest: "He said if somebody comes to check out a book, that book should be in English saying, 'It should not be paid for by the tax payer’s money of Marshall County. I do think we have a lot of county commissioners that will be interested and again. If it's one penny, it's one penny too much.'"

I suppose he has a point. We don't want to buy no books what don't have English in 'em. But wait, he goes further: "I would like to see a policy that if somebody's going to donate a book to this library where English has been the dominant language since 1836, let's make those books be donated in English only.” (What was the dominant language prior to 1836? Maybe it was Cherokee, but then there was that whole Trail of Tears thing. I really don't know.)

So he doesn't want anyone to even be able to donate a book not in English. The library isn't supposed to have any books at all in any language other than English. I guess they don't teach any foreign languages in the schools in Lewisburg, either. Apparently Lewisburg is an even bigger educational wasteland than the rest of the country.

I'd hate to see what sort of "social studies" this rube teaches. "Foreigners are bad. Don't learn anything about them. Now let's discuss your weekly reading assignment from our textbook." You know what kind of policy I'd like to see? I'd like to see a policy where ignorant rubes aren't allowed to teach our children "social studies," whatever that is. This is just the opposite extreme from the "social studies" teachers like that bonehead in Colorado who use their classrooms as anti-American propaganda centers because the only group they feel intellectually comfortable arguing with are captive teenagers whose grades they control. Is the main qualification to be a "social studies" teacher that you are vastly undereducated and want to spout your ignorant opinions to helpless teenagers? Are these two guys the typical product of our schools of education? According to this recent report, they probably are.

I really just don't understand this American resistance to languages other than English and the accompanying library challenges. And don't give me that argument about we're just trying to fight off the illegal immigrants, etc. That seems to be just the latest excuse to justify the notorious American ignorance of foreign languages and cultures. Being in favor of English as the official language of the United States, which in fact I am, has nothing to do with believing that English is the only language anyone should know. At least the Lewisburg librarians are fighting off the rubes.


Cindy said...

This is about the most absurd thing I have heard in quite a while. As you point out, maybe the worst part of this story was that a middle school social studies was one of the most vocal members of the opposition. Just imagine what he is teaching in his "social studies" classroom. And the resident who was concerned that a whopping $130 was being spent on Spanish-language books? "Today $130, next year $260..." What an embarrassment.

Degolar said...

A joke from Europe:

Q: What do you call someone who speaks 3 languages?
A: Trilingual

Q: What do you call someone who speaks 2 languages?
A: Bilingual

Q: What do you call someone who speaks 1 language?
A: American

Anonymous said...

AL, I'm not clear on why you are so disparaging towards Jay Bennish, whom you characterize as "that bonehead in Colorado." Bennish claims the U.S. is "probably the single most violent nation on planet Earth," and describes capitalism as a system "at odds with human rights." You claim that because of these statements, and others detailed in the linked article, that he is among those "who use their classrooms as anti-American propaganda centers."

What? How are these two statements propaganda? Because they say something "bad" about the United States? Because they might be empirically proven to be true?

I'm usually impressed with your honesty and intellectual rigor when it comes to saying the emperor has no clothes, but this reaction towardes Bennish seems out of character for you. Is it not possible that Mr. Bennish loves America as much as you? Is it not possible to be critical of America without being "anti-American"? Just wondering. Don't stop taking on the rubes wherever you find them, but don't let ideology dictate your targets.

AL said...

I'll be happy to explain my point about Bennish. No, I don't consider criticisms of the US necessarily to be propaganda, and I don't particularly agree with the tone the article I linked to takes about him. However, I've listened to the recording, and I do consider someone who shrilly rants to students and presents them only with a very partial and partisan view of politics to be a propagandist. He was propagandizing for his own political views. Listen for yourself. His rant would be entirely appropriate for a soapbox in the park, but as an intellectual inquiry into American politics it's woefully biased. He's like most political partisans; he doesn't want to consider any facts that don't support his beliefs. And, frankly, his poor understanding of economics alone should be enough to disqualify him to teach "social studies."

AL said...

Oh, and I certainly think one can be critical of America without being Anti-American. If I were writing Annoyed Citizen instead of Annoyed Librarian, you might be rather surprised at what I would write.