History Mystery: How Fast Can PBS and the NYT Destroy a Generation of Young Minds?

Many people were confused by the New York Times’  jaw-grindingly idiotic column yesterday trying to link candidate Paul Ryan to serial rapist and racist revolutionary Elridge Cleaver:

Paul Ryan, Black Panther?


Did Paul Ryan quote a famous 1960s Black Panther Party slogan in his speech on Saturday announcing his candidacy for vice president on the Republican ticket?

For a moment, it sounded that way. Recalling words of advice offered by his late father, Mr. Ryan said, “I still remember a couple of things he would say that have really stuck with me. ‘Son, you are either part of the problem or part of the solution.’ Regrettably, President Obama has become part of the problem, and Mitt Romney is the solution.”

For a moment, “it sounded” like Paul Ryan was stealing banal adages from a Black Panther’s mouth?  Now, that is the sort of felony that can set a Times’ columnist’s heart aflame.  It also may be the flimsiest, most pretend pretext to start telling movement stories EVER.  Once Mssrs. Goodheart, Manseau and Widmer got caught up in their fantasy, however, they ran with it, inventing a scenario in which Ryan’s father, sitting with his son, starts talkin’ about revolution, and Ryan takes the words out of context decades later to attack the noble purpose of the Panthers, because he’s that much of a psychotic baddie.  Or, conversely, he didn’t know about his dad’s conscious, or possibly unconscious, identification with Cleaver.  But, whatever.  The Times guys imagined all this, and then instead of opening a window and getting some fresh air into the room, they committed their fantasy to the page.  And then the Times actually published it as political commentary.  Watch the craziness unfold:

Give Mr. Ryan credit for making the Republicans’ big tent a little bigger. The slogan “If you’re not part of the solution, you’re part of the problem” served as a mantra of sorts for Eldridge Cleaver, the minister of information for the Black Panthers, the extreme black nationalist group . . . It’s perhaps unlikely that Mr. Ryan’s father, a lawyer in Janesville, Wisc., was present at a political gathering in 1968 when the Black Panthers co-founder Bobby Seale, urging his followers to smash “the American Empire,” proclaimed: Everyone falls into two categories. You are either part of the problem – or part of the solution. Being part of the solution means you’re willing to grab a shotgun and take to the barricades, killing if necessary. Being part of the problem means you’re on the other side of the shotgun. There is no in-between.

Where the heck are we?  What are all these guns doing here?

How does someone (three people) actually get from Paul Ryan repeating some conventional Dad adage to delusional fantasies about Mr. Ryan’s father [who has also become an obsession of dim Salon editor Joan Walsh] channeling the Panthers?

But it goes from bad to worse.  According to the deranged fabulists, the Panthers stole this highly original adage from the ultimate leftist hero . . . the white VISTA volunteer.  We are now many, many miles from Paul Ryan’s speech.  But who cares?  We’re groovin’ about VISTA (I have a very funny story about watching people steal taxpayer’s money when I was a VISTA.  Heck, I have several).

So who are these people and why are they projecting their fantasies all over the pages of the Times?

Let me explain: they’re prestigious college professors.

Starr Center for the Study of the American Experience

Historians, to be exact, and this column is yet another sad nail in that once proud profession’s coffin.

I know this stuff is both irritating and ubiquitous.  It’s hardly news when the Times makes up a considerable portion of their content, less so when the topic is Obama.  Or race.  Or Republicans.  Or all three.  But, to paraphrase Starship Troopers (which I, unlike the Times writers, am citing appropriately): this time, You Should Like to Know More.  Don’t look away from this inane babble just because’s it’s inane babble.  Don’t pop a beta-blocker and retreat to the yoga mat.  These journalist-professors may sound like the homeless guy you try to avoid eye contact with in the subway, but unlike you and that guy, the millions of kids exposed to similar babble by these very professors can’t get up and walk away from it . . . because it’s being taught to them in their classrooms.

You see, Goodheart, Manseau and Widmer (through Washington College’s CV Starr Center for the Study of the American Experience’s new initiative, Historically Corrected)  have teamed up with PBS’ equally ahistorical history romp, History Detectives, to splatter yet more Sixties babble and activist-speak all over your child’s education.  This Elridge Cleaver/Paul Ryan exposé is just one little non-footnoted footnote in a vast pedagogical conspiracy to replace learning-as-acquiring-knowledge-of-the-progression-of-significant-events with excited “detective-style” inquiry . . . inquiry designed to lead uninformed students to repeatedly “rediscover” the fabulousness of the Sixties, and the centrality of the Sixties Activist Man in every-important-thing-that-ever-happened.

Think of it as replacing a dull slog through facts about the Revolutionary War with a bunch of equally dull (yet far less challenging) anecdotes about the time your mom’s brother smoked a bunch of pot while watching the Washington Monument levitate (Yes, I know, it was really the Pentagon.  But aren’t facts bourgeois?).

Mary Grabar and I wrote about this PBS-fuelled erosion of learning about history in a report for Accuracy in Media, titled PBS: Re-Educating America’s Schoolchildren, Thanks to Your Contributions.  In it, you’ll find our take on another History Detectives lesson plan, one that curiously parallels this lunatic New York Times piece.  In “Hot-Town: Pigs on the Streets” (yes, that is the title), children are led through a fun, a-historical exercise in which they “investigate” the origins of a poster denouncing the police; contemplate police brutality at the ’68 convention, and then hear from a former Black Panther “client” about all the great lunch programs the Panthers used to run.

You know, when they weren’t busy teaching Paul Ryan’s father to say things like: “a bird in the hand’s better than two in the bush” or “if you’re not part of the solution, you’re part of the problem.”

Posters . . . activists . . . Black Panthers . . . heroic white VISTA volunteers . . . erudite college professors.  Funny, that sounds an awful lot like that New York Times column.

Welcome to your child’s educational experience, folks.

Elridge Cleaver actually said lots of things, like the time he reflected on his serial-rapist career by explaining:

Rape was an insurrectional act. It delighted me that I was defying and trampling upon the white man’s law, upon his system of values, and that I was defiling his women . . . I felt that I was getting revenge


I started out practicing on black girls in the ghetto where dark and vicious deeds appear not as aberrations or deviations from the norm, but as part of the sufficiency of the Evil of a day. When I considered myself smooth enough, I crossed the tracks and sought out white prey. I did this consciously, deliberately, willfully, methodically.

No word yet from the Ryan campaign on how they’re going to work that lingo into his Medicare speech.  But I’m sure the investigators at Historically Corrected and History Detectives are hard on the case.

So remember, as you ball up your Times in disgust — or step past that babbling wino to reach the turnstile — we can’t leave the kids with people like this, people who still keep their sweaty, dog-eared copy of Soul on Ice (the source of those lovely rape quotes) wedged firmly in their Levis as they steer the Porsche into faculty parking.

And by the way, if Paul Ryan got the phrase “you’re part of the problem or part of the solution” from anywhere other than his dad, or just breathing, maybe it actually was from Starship Troopers, which is chock full of bon mots, like this one:

Q: Who needs a knife in a nuke fight anyway?

A: The enemy can not push a button… if you disable his hand.

Think about it.


13 thoughts on “History Mystery: How Fast Can PBS and the NYT Destroy a Generation of Young Minds?”

  1. “If convenience store owners, supermarkets, dairy suppliers, and restaurants couldn’t be embarrassed into donating to feed innocent children, the party decided, then they could be boycotted, firebombed, and beaten into doing so…
    The owner of a convenience store…in North Oakland had been asked to donate 6 dozen eggs to the program… he donated only 1 dozen. So on May 10,1969, Panther members Reginald Forte and John Sloan firebombed his store.”

    “The Shadow of the Panther”, Hugh Pearson.
    (the book that should be required reading for any course examining the Panthers so of course it will never be required reading-it was written by a conflicted late baby boomer black man striving for historical accuracy not fawning hagiography.)

    the children at the breakfast program were also taught delightful chants like “We want pork chops, off the pigs! ” how heart warming.- because you should want to know more…

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