The New Clarion

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January 25th, 2009 by Mike N · 10 Comments · Culture

In response to a question on the private email list HBL, I linked to an August post at my personal blog on the concept of a sustainable curriculum. I received a good number of visits the next two days so it occurred to me that more people might be interested in examining the concept sustainability. So here is that post in its entirety.

Sustainability, Another Floating Abstraction

On August 15th WJR radio talk show host Frank Beckmann had an op-ed in the Detroit News titled “‘Sustainable’ curriculum teaches kids to envy success.” In it Mr. Beckmann reports:

“This curriculum is called Sustainability Education and nowhere in the syllabus can one find any inspirational themes that use the success stories of American entrepreneurs as role models to be admired by students.

Instead, groups like Creative Change Educational Solutions in Ypsilanti emphasize the creation of a “humane and environmentally sustainable future.”

Several schools in Ypsilanti and Ann Arbor have committed to Sustainability Education and crow about projects that have students compare “wages and working conditions in factories in China and Vietnam (to) corporate profits…and compensation for chief executive officers.” In other words, kids aren’t taught to admire and emulate success — they’re taught to envy such outcomes and “evaluate campus boycotts…and workers rights movements.”

Obviously another attempt to indoctrinate children to hate the good for being the good, more concretely, to hate capitalism.

In Wednesday’s 8/27/08 Detroit News is a LTE from two members of Bloomfield Hills School Board taking Mr. Beckmann’s op-ed to task. In it they claim

“It’s a given that our children face a dramatically different future than we did. Global workforce needs will require competence in reading, writing, math, science and computer literacy. But Beckmann misses the point: While it’s worthwhile to honor our industrial past and important to create knowledgeable technicians, job success will demand both comprehensive knowledge and highly discerning thinking.”

I hate to break it to my Bloomfield Hills neighbors but ‘comprehensive knowledge and highly discerning thinking’ is what our elementary and high schools are supposed to be about and would be if it weren’t for the anti-conceptual, educational philosophy of former intellectuals like John Dewey et el. Nowhere in this attempted rebuttal did they refute Mr. Beckmann’s charge that their curriculum teaches kids to envy success.

The home page of the above mentioned organization provides ready made curricula to teachers for the advancement of collectivism which is hidden in the candy wrapper of environmentalism. One of their ready made courses is called “Economics for the Common Good.”

But I would like to apply a little ‘discerning thinking’ to their core ideal ‘sustainability.’ Sustainability is a meaningless concept by itself. It gains meaning only when attached to a thing or process one wants to sustain. My dictionary says sustain means to ‘maintain or ‘prolong.’ To sustain then means to resist or prevent change. The call for ‘sustainability’ therefore means to call for stagnation or maintaining the status quo. In the above case it would be a government controlled stagnation which of course, we already have in education. This stagnant school system—government controlled indoctrination–is one of the things they seek to sustain. The rest is the environment, the economy, the culture etc.

The two school board members claim that the UN had no influence on their program. This is flat out false. Maybe no direct input but the ideal that ‘sustainability’ is a ‘practical’ goal was started by the UN in a paper called Agenda 21 in which it declared that modern Western industrial and technological society is unsustainable, even in your neighborhood. The supporting evidence was based on false assumptions which I won’t go into here. But the main false premise is that everyone thought that our way of living was sustainable in that no more progress would be needed, that the standard of living we had in the 80s and 90s would last forever. I don’t know of anyone who thought that way except maybe some union leaders and some liberals.

If people were polled back in the 80s or 90s and asked if they thought their standard of living were sustainable to which they would say yes, it does not mean they were thinking of freezing time at that moment or living that lifestyle unchanged forever and that this should be condemned as unsustainable. People understood that in a free society, things change generally for the better. It is this progress they would refer to as sustainable. They did not believe that their lifestyle would destroy the planet. They had to be convinced otherwise.

Like the concept extremism, sustainability is a floating abstraction. It is never defined explicitly. No clear evidence is ever given as to why a ‘sustainable’ environment or economy is a good thing or why an unsustainable one is bad. In a universe whose nature is constant change, ‘sustainability’ is a defiance of reality.

The purpose of the concept is to appeal to those who are in the habit of always thinking in terms of the approximate. No one wants to be for unsustainability right? Who would argue for things that don’t last? So sustainability is something everyone should obviously be for. All they want from their approximate-minded public is an approximate “I guess so.”

Notice the words used by environmentalists. They always want to ‘save’ this or ‘preserve’ that and ‘protect’ some other thing. From what? Change. (Which, when initiated by humans, environmentalists equate with destruction.) Progress is a form of change. Growth is a form of progress. Even nature sustains itself by a constant process of change. Species evolve while others go extinct. To teach children that sustainability is an ideal is to set them against the requirements of their own survival.

For thousands of years man has lived in abject poverty which is easily sustainable. So is a 25 year lifespan and slavery. The only change open to man in such societies is death which is permanently sustainable.

If we want sustainable progress, then laissez-faire capitalism should be demanded loudly. It is the only system that can provide it. And it can only exist in a constitutional rights-respecting republic. The one social system that’s not sustainable is democracy. And neither is a sustainability curriculum designed to sustain that democracy.

10 Comments so far ↓

  • Andrew Dalton

    Excellent post.

    People need to be told, over and over, just how naked this emperor is.

  • Harold

    I always wondered what people were talking about when they said that. Sustain what? Indeed.

  • L-C

    Sustainability and extremism. The former a euphemism for stagnation, the latter a dysphemism for consistency. The purpose of making these abstractions floating is to attack the notions of progress and full commitment (to good) as such, while keeping the attacks palatable to people who might otherwise object.

    This can be compared to Nazis curiously being labelled as “extreme right-wing”, on a scale meant to denote adherence to economic domination (left) or freedom (right). This package deal is commonly employed by European socialists to attempt to “Nazisociate” the real right out of common acceptancy.

  • madmax

    Good point about the Nazis as “right wing.” The Nazis were Leftists as all collectivists are. But they were a different type of Leftist than the Communists. The Communists were consistent in their egalitarianism. Communism advocated a worldwide egalitarian standard; ie the workers or the proletariat. In that sense, the Communists were, like most of today’s liberals, “one-worlders” or advocates of a worldwide collectivism.

    The Nazis were different. Like Islam, they advocated egalitarianism for their own; ie Germans (Islam does this with Muslims). But the Nazis, again like Islam, were very non-egalitarian with everyone else. The Germans were superior and should dominate the world (again, just like Islam and Muslim supremacy). So, I would say that the Nazis were non-egalitarian collectivists or non-one-worlder Leftists. This makes them somewhat of a unique phenomenon amongst collective movements.

    But the point stands. “Right wing” should apply only to committed individualists. By that standard there are very few Right-wingers today. Sometimes I think only Obectivists can really be called right-wingers.

  • Jim May

    “Sustainability” is a euphemism for “stasis”.

    Death is a static condition.

  • Joseph Kellard

    Is anyone here familiar with “smart growth” initiatives? I assume they are a spin off of sustainability. And I presume it has been given this name as a way to discourage critics, because if you opposed “smart” growth you would have to be stupid.

  • Bill Brown

    I live in a town that has thus far avoided them: Phoenix. However, we do have a sort of municipal insecurity at being known for sprawl so I think it’s coming sooner than later. A great blog on the subject is The Antiplanner, maintained by the guy who wrote The Vanishing Automobile and Other Urban Myths.

  • Mike

    Wow, Bill, you’re local to me? I am in Chandler. One might say I am the poster child for suburban sprawl, buying a house south of Pecos a stone’s throw from the Gila River reservation. I say: That was the kind of house I wanted, at the size I wanted, at the price I wanted, and without any damned urbanites messing up the area with their collective social scene. Something about getting married and having kids makes one yearn for two acres of “stay the hell out.” 🙂

  • Mike N

    I posted on that ‘smart’ concept once, I’ll see if I can find it. It was something like, imagine a man waking up in the morning , entering the bathroom, turning on a smart light, followed by a smart flush, then taking a smart shower…. Ever notice that when something is labeled smart, there is always less of it?