Ugly Conservative Sacred Cows

Sometimes, it’s wrong to be right. Here are three issues where conservative Republicans seem to this conservative Republican to be wrong, from a practical standpoint, at least. That’s at least from a practical standpoint. They may also be morally wrong. I won’t deal with this today. Those three issues are sacred cows of contemporary conservatism, ugly cows that hardly anyone dare slaughter. I will just have to do it.

Illegal immigration

The thought that some immigrants begin their lives in this benevolent, generous country by violating our laws is infuriating. It’s especially infuriating to the American and legal resident relatives of candidates to legal immigration who stand politely in line, often for years, sometimes to no avail. (I have a short essay on [my other] blog on legal immigration into this country. Here is a summary: for most people in the world, it’s completely impossible. I address this matter succinctly in the second half of a piece on Social Security: Bizarre Conservative Ideas About Immigration). And, incidentally, if you don’t know it already, I am an immigrant myself, a legal immigrant. (You may even want to read excerpts from my memoirs: “I Used to Be French…”)

The question is what to do about illegal immigration? Many conservatives declare that they favor muscular responses. Chief among those are militarizing the border with Mexico and mass deportation of illegal aliens in this country (most of whom are Mexicans).

The first time a member of the armed forces kills a twenty-year old Mexican trying to cross in order to buss tables in San Jose will also be the last time. We are not like that. Those who claim to want to put the military on the border have not thought things through. The military does most good when it’s shooting and when it gives the impression that it will shoot if necessary. Do you really expect them to shoot peaceful young men, and worse, women who commit an illegal act in order to make a living? (Said illegal act was only a misdemeanor for years, like illegal parking, by the way.)

I don’t care how tough conservatives they think they are. It does not sound credible. If you keep declaring that you want to do the inhumanely absurd and the absurdly inhumane it makes you lose credibility. You need your credibility for other struggles, struggles we might actually win quickly.

The severe determination to evict millions of illegal aliens sounds like bad science fiction the minute you think about it seriously. There are probably more than ten million of them, maybe more. They are concentrated in certain states such as California. Texas and Illinois. Nevertheless, there are illegal aliens in every state by now. They go to school with our children; they work in the businesses we patronize; they share our exercise machines; they worship in our churches. One immigrant who told me he came here illegally from Mexico is now president of the local branch of my bank. He is a good bank president, by the way. In part that’s because he possesses the common immigrant vigor. In part it’s because he is Mexican by culture. But I am getting away from my topic.

And, of course, if you think about it (please, do) you will soon figure out that many illegals, who came as babies, don’t know well any language other than English. Many have American brothers and sisters. You are not going to round them up. The very popular attempt to expel the small minority of illegals who have committed crimes is not even going well. And, no, it’s not all Obama’s fault. The logistics alone are daunting.

Moreover, if you polled a hundred “tough on illegal immigration” conservatives, you would find the following:

A small number would claim not to know any illegal alien. Most of those would be factually wrong. A larger number, when pressed, would request exceptions to the mass deportation order, exceptions for illegal aliens they know well: for Maria or for Luis. Maria and Luis would be their own illegals, their special lawbreakers, who happen to be good and meritorious illegal aliens. It’s the other guy’s illegal aliens they really object to! Those other illegal aliens are rabble. (Personally, I hate the Mexican who uses a leaf-blower every Monday morning at 8 on the dot. I want him deported, whether he is illegal or not.)

I develop these arguments extensively with respect to Mexican illegals specifically in an article co-authored with another immigrant, Sergey Nikiforov, published in The Independent Review.

In brief, this is not a good time (2/21/12) to argue about illegal aliens. It will invariably make you sound callous, inhuman and thoughtless plus impractical. Wait until you have the power to deal with the issue in a compassionate, humane, thoughtful and rational way.

You don’t need to die for every hill all at once.

Homosexual Marriage

First, don’t bother to correct me. I know that the politically correct term is “same-sex marriage.” Political correctness interferes with my rational thought. And by the way, it’s not two guys who just happen to be good friends who are itching to get hitched! Let’s not be ridiculous.

Don’t let your visceral revulsion masquerade as rational argument. Don’t allow yourself to push your religiously-based condemnation on me who is not religious. Don’t push it on others who might otherwise make good allies in the conquest of power. Doing either is un-conservative. It makes you look like the worst of Communist totalitarians. (Fidel Castro used to put homosexuals in prison until some of his rare smart advisors talked him out of it.)

And don’t make absurd and devious arguments by naming laws directed against homosexuals getting hitched: “Defense of Marriage Act.” Whatever homosexuals do in private, or even on the public street may be disgusting to you but it does nothing to undermine heterosexual marriage. That particular institution does not need external attacks. It self-destructs from within every minute of the day. What do you expect any way? Do you really think that if the door were terminally slammed on homosexual marriage, the percentage of first heterosexual marriage ending in divorce would slip from, say 50% to 49%? Please, take the five seconds it takes to answer this question in your mind.

And, it you think about what you already know concerning the fragility of heterosexual marriage, you must know that banning alcohol – with the death penalty for the second offense, perhaps – would almost certainly do more to preserve the institution than any prohibition applied to homosexuals.

Think through that one too, please.

My own opinion on the issue: I think no group should be allowed to use the armed force of government to change the meaning of a common word, such as “marriage.” That’s essentially what militant homosexuals are trying to do. I am completely opposed on principle. However, I don’t think it will create a precedent if they succeed. The acceptance of the idea that marriage may involve two women, or two men, or three, will not usher the day when “lie” comes to mean “truth,” by government decree and under threat of jailing.

Conservatives need to be mature enough to fight in important battles and not to pick fights based on unreasoned rage.

And, incidentally, in case you are wondering, I am not one of the brave conservative homosexuals forced to stay in the closet. I am not a homosexual but strictly a normal, vulgar T&A kind of guy.

Imposing standards of performance on schools

There are many different reasons to be appalled at the whole educational establishment, K through high-school senior and beyond, including the university, and even some graduate and professional schools. I don’t like the word “appalled.” It sounds effeminate and left-liberal. So, in truth, I am not appalled but I am really pissed off. And, as a former teacher, I could tell you stories that would make your hair stand on end. And your hair wouldn’t come down until the next morning at best. What you know is not the half of it!

To pare down the causes of our disillusionment, to get down to its core:

The more numerous the national educational establishment and the more loaded with benefits, the more unassailable its privileges, the less Johnny knows how to read.

It began with elementary school that promoted “students” who couldn’ t spell their name; it’s crept to the colleges that now offer numerous remedial classes for freshmen they admitted under their own power. I can testify personally that I know an expensive university that awards degrees each year to people who cannot line up two grammatically correct sentences in any language. Some of these same students major in a foreign language. They can’t line up anything in the foreign language either. After four years and tens of thousands of dollars, they end up illiterate in two languages. N.S. !

There is a natural tendency to want to remedy this rolling disaster with a formula that seems to succeed in business:

Evaluate, punish or reward

There are several reasons why this is likely to be counterproductive.

First, the evaluation is not as easy as current plans seem to assume: It’s for schools as for computers: Give the best schools very bad students and they will only turn out mediocre students. Give mediocre schools excellent students, they will turn them mediocre. It’s not easy to figure out what does what although it’s possible to do in principle. Children are not like so many pounds of flour. They are intensely reactive and they come into the school system with built-in strengths and built-in defects. The relevant research would be quite expensive and it would take a long time to conduct.

It’s true that liberal teachers unions use these very arguments to protect their members from scrutiny and from accountability. This does not mean that this view is incorrect. You don’t want to create a worse situation by punishing good teachers that work with difficult human material and by rewarding bad teachers that are able to pick the low-hanging cherries.

Second, don’t be surprised if teachers sabotage evaluations done by existing school hierarchies. They will do this even when they approve of the fact of being evaluated and even if they approve of the evaluation tools. Education has been a rotten, intellectually corrupt field for so long that the hierarchies it generates cannot be seen as respectable by respectable teachers.

The solution to this last problem often seems to be to use “objective” evaluation tools, mechanical evaluation devices that do not make room for supervisors’ corruption. I agree that it’s possible in principle to develop such evaluative devices. By administering them according to a “before and after” pattern, it’s also possible to remedy at once the first and second objections I raise above.

Doing so creates a third problem that is so serious that it may be worse than the original problem any evaluations are supposed to remedy.

As someone who devised hundreds of tests, let me say that I don’t see how it would be possible to reformulate the evaluation tools for any area or especially, nationally with much frequency. Doing so would be extravagantly expensive, too time-consuming. So, the teachers and their school “superiors” would quickly become aware of the contents of the tests, of what, very precisely the tests are actually testing. If the rewards and punishments were not significant, see above. If they were significant, you can be completely sure that most teachers, 80%, 90%, 95 % would immediately start teaching narrowly to the test.

How would you not expect teachers to do more or less this since their welfare and that of their children, even their retirement would depend exactly on their teaching to the test? I mentioned their retirement because economic self-advancement is normally done on a percentage basis. The raise you did not get this year will stay with you your whole life, literally. It will increase in relative size with every year. (I know how costly this sort of purity is because I followed such a strategy throughout my teacher career and I never caught up economically with my lackluster but conformist colleagues.)

The best possible outcome of this scenario is that after a while, American kids would read and write pretty much as well as say, Koreans, or Estonians.

Do you see where I am going? This is something very valuable that the current disastrous American education promotes or, that at least, it avoids destroying. For lack of a better word, that’s called “creativity.’ Americans have more of it than others. Look around from the Internet to giant double rolls of toilet paper in public facilities to country music!

Ideally, we would have a Johnny who would know how to read and write and who would also remain occasionally creative. I am afraid, we don’t know how to produce such a result. It does not mean that it cannot be done. It does not depend on a drastic, sudden reform though, It’s not a matter of getting tough, no more Mr Nice Guy!

Note that I am evoking here the possibility of a successful endeavor. I have not even begun to discuss the real likelihood of massive, systemic cheating in and ill-implemented “evaluate, punish, reward “ program. Look at the Atlanta school system for an example of how massively wrong this strategy can go.

I have no conclusion for this butchery proposal in three parts. I don’t need to know what ought to be don’t to stop doing what I shouldn’t do. I hope you will offer one conclusion or more.

9 thoughts on “Ugly Conservative Sacred Cows

  1. Along the same line; why is marriage even any of the government’s business. For tax purposes it could be classed as a partnership (just like a business) any other interest on the governments part is intrusive and unwarranted.

    In education you have much right. That tends to be why I think it should be regulated at the lowest level (meaning county or township) That way if someone screws up, it doesn’t affect the whole country, and if someone gets it right, it can be copied. In other words, I don’t know the answer and don’t think anyone else does either. Failing that, just abolish public schools, cut taxes and let them all go to private schools of their parent’s choice.

    In my view, we need to close the border, yes, and then we need to figure out a way to incorporate the illegals that are here for the right reasons. Then we need to make legal immigration possible, maybe even easy. You’re dead on, for anything approaching a normal person it is impossible now. We’ve gained far more from immigration than we’ve spent on it. In the meantime, enforcing the law would be a nice touch.

  2. The thing I would like conservatives to do regarding immigration is to apply the same logical reasoning they would to it as they do regarding something like the right to own a gun. If the Congress passed legislation outlwaying the private ownership of firearms, the overwhelming majority of conservatives would see such legislation as illegitimate and an offense to their fundamental rights. Furthermore, if polled, I imagine most would see the right to bear arms as a right independent of the US Constitution, that even if the US Constitution were amended to repeal the 2nd Amendment, they would still see the illegalization of firearms as a violation of their rights. Thus, one conclusion we can come to about conservative thought is that it does not hold that all legislation passed by the legislature is legitimate, even if procedurally valid.

    Why not apply this consideration to immigration? Is there a fundamental difference between legal immigrationm and illegal immigration except for the arbitrary whims of some government bureaucracy that makes incredibly complex flow charts of who can and cannot come into the US legally? It is troublesome that many conservatives act as if there is and construct their arguments and political demands accordingly. What must be shown is (1) there exists the political authority to keep individuals from voluntarily interacting with one another simply because they live on different sides of a political border, (2) if such political authority does exist, why there is a fundamental difference between who is approved by the political authority and who is not, and (3) show why impeding upon the freedom of movement of peaceful people is sound policy.

  3. I really liked pretty much everything you had to say. Actually I think I might not have a problem with a single thing! I would be classified as a liberal. I used to be conservative, I come from a small town in Idaho and it is illegal to be liberal there. Bu tI have had to change horses as of late. I would like to say something about your thoughts on education. Daughter has a Masters, she teaches single and multiple subject up to and including second year college. She is currently teaching english. She also has remedial classes and advanced added to her teaching load. She loves teaching. Her complaint is that she gets kids that don’t speak english, or that english is the second language. So depending on how laden her classes are with these individuals depends on how the testing goes. So her wish is to at least test a class a few weeks into the school year, then again at the end so that the actual teaching and class can be properly evaluated. It is in California, and yes, a lot of Mexican students, but you would be surprised at how diverse the area is in language and ethnicity. The test cannot therefore ever be accurate.

  4. HI, John. let me say first that I don’t believe you exist. There cannot be anyone in your age range (based on your picture) who turns from conservative to liberal. Plus, if you agree with my essay, that makes me a liberal. I don’t think so! The liberals establishment gave us the situation within which your daughter has to operate. Its solutions don’t work. It’s that simple even if we don’t know what the substitutes should look like. (After all, I don’t need to know where the chair is before I jump from the red-hot stove burning my butt!)

    You treat in the same sentence the problems of illiterate Anglo kids and that of kids whose first language is not English. Those are different problems, I believe. The first is by far the worst. If there were a demand, I would write wisely and deeply on this topic about which I know something since I am illiterate in two languages!

    Please, order my book. It will not change your life but it will make you feel good. Just compose I Used to Be French on Amazon, or order from me directly at

  5. I will make a note of the fact that when the Democrats controlled the House, Senate, and the White House under Obama, Pelosi, and Reid. Immigration reform was not on the agenda, only Obamacare. The Republicans have had the same opportunity on several instances too. Nothing happened which shows you that neither political party really wants change,
    As a Libertarian, I do not want the government in our bedrooms, sexual preferences, etc. Once you invite their intervention, it will never be the same, and they will use this demographic just like they do illegal immigrants. It is a slippery slope.

Please keep it civil

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