November 5, 2008

"Dreams from My Father" as the next "To Kill a Mockingbird"

My guess is that over the next one to two decades, Barack Obama's Dreams from My Father will become one of the standards on high school and community college reading lists, like "To Kill a Mockingbird" or that Latina-authored snooze "The House on Mango Street" by Sandra Cisneros.

I suspect there will be a big market in Cliff Notes among students who don't quite make it all the way through Dreams.

By the way, kids, the reason "Lord of the Flies" is on all school reading lists is because it's your teachers' way of letting you know what they think of you.

My published articles are archived at iSteve.com -- Steve Sailer

43 comments:

Anonymous said...

I can't wait for the movie.

turkey said...

What are the concrete mechanisms for getting lefty glurge into classrooms? I'm still annoyed that I've read The Crucible.

Anonymous said...

By the way, kids, the reason "Lord of the Flies" is on all school reading lists is because it's your teachers' way of letting you know what they think of you.

And it's a great allegory for the modern political process. But then that was sort Golding's intent, wasn't it?

The great thing about allegory is that, so long as it's ambiguous enough, the allusions can always be used against those of any ideology. The anti-religious literature of yesterday is the anti-multicult literature of today. The story of Galileo and the Pope tells us almost nothing about Benedict XVI but a lot about race deniers.

I actually liked most of the lit we had to read in high school, including the ones (Silas Marner) most of my classmates detested. But Lord of the Flies was probably my favorite.

Perhaps because I always felt like Piggy.

Captain Jack Aubrey said...

What are the concrete mechanisms for getting lefty glurge into classrooms?

So long as teachers (especially English teachers) tend mostly towards the left...

That's one of the problems with conservatives. Conservative parents - my parents - were always busy telling their kids that teaching was a lousy profession because it paid horribly; and that English was a lousy major for same. If you don't major in English then you won't be teaching it and you're less likely to be writing, period.

Vercingetorix said...

That makes me think of P.J. O'Rourke's review: "The Deep Thoughts of Lee Iacocca" (collected in "Give War A Chance," Atlantic Monthly Press, 1992).

"You see the poor bastards at every airport in the country... They are America's young management meatballs. And every man jack of them has a copy of Iacocca, An Autobiography, under his arm... So far, 1.4 million copies have been printed, and each is being read by someone who moves his lips."

P.J. characterizes Iacocca's story: "The man is consumed by pride and besotted with vanity. Every nitpick in his life must be of compelling interest to us, his co-adulators..."

Now, from reading your analysis of Obama's book I'm sure it's much better than the one Iacocca and his helpmeet Novak put out. But your analysis also persuades me that most people will gain little by reading Obama's book.

Anonymous said...

Lord of the Flies

I showed my teacher what I thought of him by NOT reading it. And in true Detroit Public Skool fashion I still got an "A".

Thursday said...

Speaking as a High School English teacher, I to say, "Man, do we make kids read a lot of crap?"

Now, I like Proust, whose sentences make Obama's look short and pithy, so just because most people, let alone most high schoolers, can't appreciate something doesn't mean it isn't great.

But the stuff we make kids read tends to lack both profundity and fun. It's all boring and earnest. Blech.

Garland said...

"By the way, kids, the reason "Lord of the Flies" is on all school reading lists is because it's your teachers' way of letting you know what they think of you."

Heh. It's easy to use as a springboard for group projects and process dramas and the like.

eh said...

Another reason to homeschool.

Anonymous said...

Why don't you tell us about something timely and interesting like Rahm Emanuel's very brief and very phony 16 million dollar Chicago investment bank career?

http://kennysideshow.blogspot.com/2008/11/look-at-rahm-emanuel-obamas-chief-of.html

Glaivester said...

Ever read Gail Jarvis's review?

Gribble said...

What about "The Audacity of Hope?" You know who's famous for harping on audacity, right?* I sure hope that title doesn't presage any political developments...


*"L'audace, l'audace, tojours l'audace!"

John of London said...

"Lord of the Flies" is on all school reading lists.

Do you know what proportion of teachers or pupils make an appropriate comment on the episode where a myopic boy's glasses are used to start fire? This is particularly irritating because William Golding served as a Royal Navy officer during WWII, which according to all the films I've seen involved a lot of peering thru binoculars. Yet he didn't have enough curiosity to revise the simple optical principles on which they work. Yet another example of someone being brilliant and stupid at the same time.
Apart from that, I think LOTF is a fine novel, and also short, so American schoolkids get a good deal with that one.

guest007 said...

Steve,

the Washington Post had a long article about this. If you wanted to create a cirriculum that ensures that most males will never turn into readers, then the current high school English class is it.

http://www.washingtonpost.com/wp-dyn/content/article/2008/08/22/AR2008082202398.html

James Kabala said...

To Kill a Mockingbird, while by no means the greatest novel ever written, is a good read and more politically complex than its admirers or detractors admit. Atticus is not a liberal; he even makes a crack about Eleanor Roosevelt and her self-righteousness at one point. The movie streamlined the book's rough edges and made it more overtly preachy.

When Harper Lee was tracked down by the New York Times a couple years ago, she claimed that she voted Republican (not the same as being a conservative, of course, but not what many would expect).

I think Dreams from My Father is just too long for a high school reading list. Except for the occasional Dickens (and even then they pick the shorter ones), high school reading books rarely clear 300 pages. The fact that Lord of the Flies is rather short is regarded as a point in its favor; a real shortie like Animal Farm or Ethan Frome (the latter's popularity being otherwise inexplicable) is regarded as even better.

Anonymous said...

Did you hear the conversation between Tom Brokaw and Charlie Rose that Rush Limbaugh played on his show today? It's hilarious. "We really don't know much about this guy, do we?" Maybe Charlie will have Sailer on to talk about his book. That'll be the day.

Anonymous said...

Interesting trivia about the making of the movie version of LOTF, from the director of that film, quoted in Hans Askenasy's Are We All Nazis?

"Many of their [actors'] off-screen relationships completely paralleled the story, and one of our main problems was to encourage them to be uninhibited within the shots but disciplined in between them.... My experience showed me that the only falsification in Golding's fable is the length of time the descent to savagery takes. His action takes about three months. I believe that if the cork of continued adult presence [i.e., of external checks and balances on the group's leaders] were removed from the bottle, the complete catastrophe could occur within a long weekend."

Of course, that's basically what happened in Philip Zimbardo's classic simulated prison study, too, in a similarly closed hierarchical society over the course of little more than a long weekend.

So, Tequila Mockingbirds, and keep 'em coming! Beats the hell out of the Leon Uris I had to read back in high school. Short novels? Oh my gawd....

James Kabala said...

"streamlined the rough edges"

Sorry for that mixed metaphor. It was early in the morning.

You Bet I'm Anon. said...

James Kabala, that's an interesting point. I always thought Mrs. Roosevelt and Harper Lee were the same person.

But seriously though, To Kill a Mockingbird is absolutely the most effective type of propaganda - perhaps the most effective example of propaganda. As fiction, it can't be criticized for being untrue. Yet it effectively innoculates each new generation of youngsters against the facts of crime post-1960s. Black-on-white rape has been banished from the sunlit world of fiction and song to the dimly-remembered dungeons of FBI statistics and personal accounts.

I've personally known several women like the author of the latter article - vehement supporters of progress on civil rights (however that might be defined in their time and place), highly naive, adventurous, fancying themselves the sort of poorly-behaved women who frequently make history. (They were not poorly behaved - they were, to a woman, all very polite.) The most distressing thing about these stories is not political at all, it's actually the most ubiquitous thing about any rape - the trauma that befalls the victim. In my time, I've known half a dozen women with PTSD from rapes, and I assure you that quite a bit more than 13.5% of the attackers were African-American.

And that's why I find Harper Lee's magnificent opus distasteful.

i am the walrus said...

"I've personally known several women like the author of the latter article - vehement supporters of progress on civil rights (however that might be defined in their time and place), highly naive, adventurous, fancying themselves the sort of poorly-behaved women who frequently make history."

Sounds like you're describing Dr. Stanley Ann Dunham Obama Soetoro.

Saladman said...

I remember liking Lord of the Flies at the time. In fact I drew the parallel to my classmates at the time, even with the presence of teachers. 30 kids, all the same age, closed in a room with one authority figure, and almost on their own for recess, lunch and class changes...

People don't think about how unique and unnatural it is, but up until the advent of Prussian schooling, that degree of age segregation was relatively uncommon.

You Bet I'm Anon. said...

"Sounds like you're describing Dr. Stanley Ann Dunham Obama Soetoro."

I hadn't thought of that! One of the things that I think is a key difference among different types of leftist is, how deeply do they believe their assertion that all people can be moral and upstanding and trustworthy if only given the right environment?

If a young woman has a desire to hang out unchaperoned (we're talking about 17-year-olds and the like here ... years younger than some who would have been supervised on dates in the 1950s) with males, why? I'm not talking about any males, I'm talking about the sort of males who earn and expect to earn status by talking about overthrowing (i.e. shooting) "the man" (i.e., a bunch of working-class cops).

Do these (let's face it) girls really trust murderers to not also be rapists? Let's dispense with the claptrap that women or anyone EVER wants to raped. Can't happen. Doesn't make sense. Consensual and non-consenual don't overlap. But what about risk? I think maybe the rakes and rogues aren't actually trusted to not be rapists in general - I think the young women are just testing themselves to see if they as individuals can avoid the Fate Worse Than Death. Dating violent rebels is an extreme sport. Violent rebels attract "poorly-behaved" polite naive women in the same way vertical rockfaces attract folks who know the difference between a Friction Shoe and an Edging Shoe.

Suggesting that a girl wants to raped is like suggesting that rock-climber wants to break his back and spend the rest of his life in a wheelchair.

The crippling injuries my female friends have received may or may not be something they can outlive. I pray that they can outlive them but alas, I'm no longer in contact with any of them. As far as I know they are all still radical leftists, and would probably consider my research into interracial rape to be risible, or "creepy" at best.

Just like it's "creepy" to know that someone can break his back falling off a rockface.

Anonymous said...

Conrad's brilliant HEART OF DARKNESS has been a staple of the high school literature/English classes for a few years here down South...whowouldthunkit?

Anonymous said...

I feel somewhat privileged by the notion that I’m one of the few in this world who (a) reads Steve Sailer religiously, and (b) has read Dreams from my Father: A Story of Race and Inheritance, from cover to cover.

Honestly, what percentage of you Steve readers have actually read the book? 10% at the most, I would imagine. Almost certainly less.

It is a beautiful book. It is deeply introspective and thoughtful. I wish I had known more people like Barack Obama in my life. Instead, the vast majority of the jerks I went to school with were either vapid preppies looking to become bond traders, or obtuse jocks.

I think some of you jumping on the anti-Dreams bandwagon ought to give this autobiographical novel a fairer chance.

James Kabala said...

For what it's worth, the full quotation is:

"Thomas Jefferson once said that all men are created equal, a phrase that the Yankees and the distaff side of the Executive branch in Washington [i.e., Eleanor Roosevelt - JK] are fond of hurling at us. There is a tendency in this year of grace, 1935, for certain people to use this phrase out of context, to satisfy all conditions. The most ridiculous example I can think of is that the people who run public education promote the stupid and idle along with the industrious--because all men are created equal, educators will gravely tell you, the children left behind suffer terrible feelings of inferiority. We know all men are not created equal in the sense some people would have us believe--some people are smarter than others, some people have more opportunity because they're born with it, some men make more money than others, some ladies make better cakes than others--some people are born gifted beyond the normal scope of most men. But there is one way in this country in which all men are created equal--there is one human institution that makes a pauper the equal of a Rockefeller, the stupid man the equal of an Einstein, and the ignorant man the equal of any college president. That institution, gentlemen, is a court."

Sounds like a potential isteve reader (although they might not have as much confidence in the intelligence of college presidents) - a citizenist, but a realist.

call me ishmael said...

It is a beautiful book. It is deeply introspective and thoughtful. I wish I had known more people like Barack Obama in my life. Instead, the vast majority of the jerks I went to school with were either vapid preppies looking to become bond traders, or obtuse jocks.

I'm guessing you're a female, and I'm sure as Obama becomes more powerful, the book becomes more beautiful and more introspective and more thoughtful to you. "Dreams' is perhaps the most deeply cynical book I've ever read about the differences between men and women. I'll say this much about Obama: he's nobody's fool.


Kay Adams: Do you know how naive you sound, Michael? Presidents and senators don't have men killed.

Michael Corleone: Oh. Who's being naive, Kay?

Mr. Anon said...

"Anonymous said...

Conrad's brilliant HEART OF DARKNESS has been a staple of the high school literature/English classes for a few years here down South...whowouldthunkit?"

Probably because the teachers think it is "anti-colonial". It isn't. "Heart of Darkness" must be one of the most misunderstood books of all time.

David Davenport said...

... and also short, so American schoolkids get a good deal with that one.

How 'bout Moby Dick?

quoted in Hans Askenasy's Are We All Nazis?


Askenasy = Ashkenazim. What he really means is, are all goyim Nazis?

Instead, the vast majority of the jerks I went to school with were either vapid preppies looking to become bond traders, or obtuse jocks.

I.e they outranked you in the dominance hierarchy.

Anonymous said...

James Kabala, I was just going to post that exact passage, which my daughter pointed out to me after reading the book for school. Although I have seen the movie a few times, I never read the book and I was very pleased to see something like that in a book that all of my kids will undoubtedly be forced to read in school. My daughter liked that passage because it reminded her of some of my rants on the topic of equality.

J. Huston

Truth said...

"I've known half a dozen women with PTSD from rapes, and I assure you that quite a bit more than 13.5% of the attackers were African-American."

I guess that would mean that between 1 and 6 of these 'half a dozen women' you know have been raped by blacks.

Anonymous said...

About the "Mockingbird". I'm from Czechia and I read the book at the age of 10-12. I didn't know anything about rape statistics in the States now and then and for my understanding of the book, this isn't relevant. To me, the book is mainly about seeking the truth. The truth that has to be found in the courtroom, despite the fashionable prejudices of the moment. Despite the fact, that the public would like to have the story the other way.

I'm sure, that Atticus Finch would have seeked the truth in the same way, had it been the cause of Duke lacrosse players.

Anonymous said...

Outranking me in the school hierarchy? Deifying sports grunts and alpha-dominant leeches looking to make money in life off the buying and selling of others? And you countenance this? It’s this philosophy of thought which is rendering WASPs as second class citizens in this country. What a joke.

Interloper said...

I'm going to be charitable because someone needs to be. The passage from To Kill a Mockingbird cited is not an affirmation of white supremacy at all. The Finch character is referring to equality of citizenship, the belief that all Americans are equal in a civic sense. The venue for this equality is the courtroom in the book, but it could equally well be the voting booth, as in Ernest Gaines thematically similar The Autobiography of Miss Jane Pittman.

The inequality these authors refer to is the variances in aptitude, behavior and achievement of individuals. The notion Lee is affirming white supremacy is ludicrous. If that were the case, justice (or as an intelligent commenter put it, the search for the truth) would not even be an issue.

There is much posturing about being intellectuals at white supremacist sites, but the fruit of the discussions, including this one, reveals people who are not capable of even modest analytical tasks, such as interpreting the theme of a novel correctly.

I urge people to actually read President-elect Obama's books. Steve Sailer's agenda of demonizing Obama means it is impossible for him to provide a remotely objective analysis.

Anonymous said...

The cited passage was crucial for mz understanding of the book and for shaping my view about human equality and I return sometimes to the book and read it again and again. Yes, we are not born equal and our gifts are very different, even absent in some persons. But it's in a courtroom, where one has a right to be treated equally.

And for the detractors of the book - the book says nowhere that blacks do not rape at all. Just that whatever we may know about this sad phenomenon should not influence the courtroom proceedings of an individual case.

And this holds for recent ideologically influenced cases as well. Now the premise is that only majority can be racist...

James Kabala said...

Interloper: Don't be so quick to throw around accusations of "white supremacy." I am not one myself and never have been. I said the passage was more conservative than the book is often given credit for and that Lee (or at least Finch) was not a namby-pamby liberal as conservative critics of the book often assume.

I don't know how you can interpret a clear statement of "This undeniably anti-racist book also contains conservative sentiments, so conservative readers should not reflexively condemn it." as "This book is secretly a statement of white supremacy and therefore you should like it." Please be so kind as to apologize.

Anonymous said...

"And for the detractors of the book - the book says nowhere that blacks do not rape at all."

You're correct, it doesn't SAY it. It is taught to impressionable students as the ONLY thing they ever read on the subject.

Imagine for an a second that your classroom full of students has never learned anything in biology about snakes. You tell them a fiction story about a noble garter snake that is thought incorrectly to be venomous. After a lot of blood, sweat, and truth-seeking, the garter snake is acquitted of venomousness, and found to be a benign creature.

You tell them dozens of times that garter snakes are not venomous ... assign them essays to answer the question Are garter snakes venomous? or Is it okay to mistake a non-venomous snake for a venomous one? You drop some hints about the platypus being venomous from time to time. You never mention cobras or mambas or cottonmouths. You stick to garter snakes. A biology teacher who utters "rattlesnake" is fired immediately.

Impressionable graduates go for hikes in swamps laden with water moccasins. Those that survive come back saying only that "a snake" bit them, and they got sick. The reply? "Not all snakes bite people, not all snakes are venomous, and you didn't die. You must be mistaken, or may you're a SNAKIST."

But your original fiction story didn't exactly say that snakes are never venomous, did it? So you're all clear, right? And your neo-Prussian leftist conditioning is not to blame for anything, right?

Am I right?

James Kabala said...

Anonymous: Your conception of the proper purpose of art seems to be as didactic as that of the liberals you condemn (and very different from Harper Lee's).

Anonymous said...

My views on education are didactic? Check out a dictionary and get back to me.

Anonymous said...

Oh well. I still insist on that Mockingbird wasn't written as a denial of black-on-white rape stats. I firmly believe that the original intention of Harper Lee was to point out the equality of people before the law and that the highly divisive rape theme was used as a good example of strong emotions that are clouding the reason even in the courtroom. In that it resembles 3-year older "12 angry men", where also truth is sought by overcoming hasty conclusions and personal feelings. I can't comment about the use of Lee's book in the US schools now and in the past, but I'm slightly puzzled, that the kids don't see it as I saw it years ago.

Interloper said...

Most people reading To Kill a Mockingbird do not get the theme wrong. They realize the book is about the denial of equitable treatment to members of a despised minority in a supposed democracy. The reason that most commenters at this site get the theme wrong is that they twist reality to fit their blighted perspective of white supremacy.

The crime alleged could have been anything, or nothing at all. Most of the more than 5,000 black Americans lynched from 1876 through 1960 had done nothing wrong. Often, the lynchers sought to destroy black folks who were successful or 'uppity.' The justice system was sometimes used for similar purposes.

Nor would a discussion of rape focus on race among reasonable people. The overwhelming majority of rapes involve a victim and a perpetrator of the same race. It is white supremacists who obsess about rape and race.

Last but not least, I think it quite likely that the well-written autobiography of a president will become an assigned text in high schools. Dreams is the kind of coming of age story that is suitable for young people.

Since the election, both of President-elect Obama's books have climbed up the bestseller lists. Many Americans will be reading what the man has to say for themselves.

James Kabala said...

Anonymous: Harper Lee didn't write the book to get on high school reading lists, although I'm sure she doesn't mind the resultant moral lessons. And no, I don't believe that good art or literature, including that taught in schools, has to teach an explicit moral lesson (although I agree it often does) or prepare the reader for every possible eventuality in the real world. By your standards, no novel could ever be about a man falsely accused of crime unless it was accompanied by accurate statistics on crime rates among his ethnic group. That is making art didactic. (I didn't use the word "education.")

Interloper: I still don't know with whom you think you're arguing. If with actual white supremacists, they don't like the book. If with those (like me and the anonymous right above you) who like the book and view its themes SLIGHTLY differently than you do, I don't know what your problem is.

Anonymous said...

I was attacked by 3 blacks one night coming home from working at the post office. They were chased away by 3 whites who happened to be out on their porch that dark, rainy evening. Sometimes life is that simple. If it hadn't happened that way, I'd probably wouldn't be here now.
I was almost raped and murdered in my own previously safe, white, working class neighborhood. My friend's sister was raped by a black who invaded her home. The girl was 14 and survived; in fact, the next day she took entrance exams and did well, later married a Jewish lawyer, had kids, did well. My father was robbed by blacks, again in that once safe neighborhood. I live in a liberal, lawyer neighborhood where whites and blacks have been raped, murdered, etc., all by blacks.
They tell me crime happens among all races. um, yes. But with a lot of blacks around, it happens a LOT more.
When I first read To Kill a Mockingbird as a teen, I remember feeling the usual mushiness and guilt. But at the bottom of it all I wondered, well--What ARE the STATS? How much mayhem is done by blacks as compared to whites, TODAY, in a typical multi-racial American setting?
I never believed that book--even as a kid I knew it was dishonest. As a particular story about a particular event where a black was falsely accused, ok, that may have occurred that way. But to try and extrapolate general truth, the "silliness" of fearing black crime, I never bought it. In fact, I deeply resented it, and was disgusted by it. Even before they came after me.

Anonymous said...

Most of the more than 5,000 black Americans lynched from 1876 through 1960 had done nothing wrong."

Yeah, I know that's the idea, but I wonder. Have there been studies on it? Considering the hostility and crime by blacks on whites nowadays (most of my white friends and acquaintenances in urban areas have been affected) is such that I don't buy it that they were mostly innocent.
However, guilty or innocent, the crime of taking "justice" into their own hands was still a crime, and a stupid one. It makes even the guiltiest into heroes.
btw, blacks lynched blacks and white lynched whites.