Friday, February 4, 2011

Thomas Hardy, Jim Bolin, and Cory Heidelberger

Jim Bolin is a friend of mine.  Cory Heidelberger is a friend of mine.  I'm probably the only person in South Dakota who can make both of  those statements.  That's a fact that scares me.

Yesterday, Cory went after Jim on the Madville Times.  I wish Cory had been kinder to Jim whom I know to be a good history teacher.  I had the chance to hear some of his lectures back in the day.  I also wish Cory had shown a little less deference to Wade Pogany.  I don't recall Mr. Pogany doing that much good for the education or debate communities lately.

For his part, Jim should have been more consistent.  If the Common Core Standards that are being proposed for history are bad, the English ones should be questioned also.  After all, a fig tree can't bear olives, or a grapevine bear figs; in addition, a salt spring can't produce fresh water [James 3:12 Plainsman Paraphrase Version].  Jim also could have avoided the "San Francisco" and "heartland values" talking points.  Those phrases are part of the "plain folks" propaganda technique that every high school student should recognize and avoid.

This incident made me think about a larger point that I believe the beginning of a Thomas Hardy poem illustrates.
"HAD he and I but met,
By some old ancient inn,
We should have sat us down to wet
Right many a nipperkin!
Cory provides "[l]iberal media for Lake Herman, Madison, and the great state of South Dakota."  Jim is proudly conservative, so these two are "ranged as [political] infantry." 

South Dakota has a de facto one party political system; Republicans dominate.  Half of the Republican Party is to Jim's political right.  I think the state has about 37 liberals and 19 moderates. I'd hate to hear what the people to Jim's right would say about Cory.  The principle behind Aristotle's Golden Mean should apply to politics.  South Dakota shows what happens when the Golden Mean is absent; one is left with "tea-baggers" or "enemies of the the heartland."  Those conditions make it unlikely that members of either political persuasion will engage in any nipperkin wetting. (I'm pretty sure that both Jim and Cory are teetotallers, so I'm not sure what beverages would be in those tiny cups, but that's beside the point.)

To survive the next decades, my students will need to know more than any previous generation; they'll also need to know how to use those facts and how to come up with new ways to deal with old problems like budget deficits and clashing values.  I'm not sure they'll be able to that if they see everyone with an opposing viewpoint as an enemy.  Yet, the state seems to have created a political culture that will continue foster just such an attitude.  Hardy, were he writing today, to say that South Dakota politics, not war, is "quaint and curious."

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