Essay

A More Perfect Union [A Short Story]

A short-short Story in a monologic voice; or, as, we might say, the essayistic voice, I have grown accustomed to wearing–and we do wear voices as we also wear masks, persons, personality, maskality, what is it about personality and the selves of the Self?  What we have here are some of the opinions of Thomas Sarebbononnato expressed in his journal that he carries with him wherever he goes, whenever he does, as this day he does in a Bistro where he sits in his favorite spot on the banquet, under a Poster of Jean Gabin in the French film, La Bete Humaine, as he himself says to himself or to another, under his breath, “The human beast, it is I.”

[At Jules on Saint Mark’s, Friday, 2:20PM, June 16th, XXXX.]

We the people of the United States, in order . . . yes, order. Order is the single rule of operation for any State, whether French, American, or Iranian; fascist, communist, Islamist; it does not matter. Third world dictatorships or totalitarian regimes are not the only kinds of governments concerned for regulating its citizens and residents. Our United States government no less than China’s. You cannot imagine that it is not paradigmatic around the world, the political nature we call states and governments; what we call power in itself power, by itself for itself.

The preferred result of any state’s practice is always a more perfect union, and the finishing point for any State would be for all who live within it–all the people governed by its administrators–to serve the state and only the state, as any or all bureaucrats understand, themselves standing firmly as managerial pillars supporting the fundamental tenet that the State must for certain and for always come before the people, that in all matters governmental, the State is Alpha and Omega. These are dogmas heeded no less fervently than the dogmas of any organized religion are by the pious. States have their demands and bureaucrats their devotions.

And I suppose you are going to say that you do not see it this way, as if everyone in America had to disagree with what ever is said no matter how true or how much sense it makes, everyone has to say but, but, but, doubt, doubt and more doubt, now the highest wisdom. We no longer begin with Socrates, we end with his I know nothing, not to find out what the limits of knowing are, but to close them forever in a pervasive and perpetual doubt that anyone can really know anything. Fucking idiots that we are . . .

These clerics of State, and every clerk is a cleric—they come together in one temper that expresses their function in the following way: everything we think, everything we do and all that we react to should be of, by and for the bureaucracy and the bureaucracy alone, in as much as they are the guardians of the State, the limit of life and reality for all who exist in the state, but bestly, for the state. Of course, Lincoln meant to say, of the State, by the State and for the State–no–I cannot believe that of Lincoln, probably more so because my father, who did not trust the state or many of the contemporary presidents he had lived through, could not believe that of Lincoln.

My father had parsed the sentences of, and examined the poetic devices used in, Lincoln’s “Gettysburg Address, all in his efforts to teach me what I would not get in Public Grammar School. He read Lincoln’s speeches to me as well as Milton and Shakespeare, and before I was ten.

In as much as we in America systematically under educate at every turn in our standard public education, we are not likely to enlist bureaucrats with anything more than the typical less-than education we want; that is, the scarcely literate, and only the functionally so if that, is all anyone in the state will sponsor or to which anyone from within the State bureaucracies will aspire. Managers do not want thinkers or anybody thinking–I have seen this myself in current management just about everywhere I have worked.

Our current sense of literacy is the only kind the State considers fit for the Democratic averages, the great social en-masse, more liable to answer the Pavlovan bell of advertising than likely to discern critically; these are the masses accustomed to deciding political issues firstly and lastly only when filtered through the sieve of mass media or social media.

Now, as it seems in perpetuity, the State maintains as part of its internal policy of control a scheme of education whereby large numbers of students moving through its curriculum will in the last read no better than the eighth grade, which is the grade level considered by the federal government literate enough. This functional literacy, as the government of the United States calls it could not carry you through the most significant editorials of even the New York Times. It will allow you to handle most of the general reporting in almost any of America’s tabloid newspapers, and even a significant portion of the general reporting of the Washington Post or New York Times.

Now whether or not what is contemporarily required to read at the eighth grade today is equal to or less than what was considered eighth grade reading twenty five or fifty years ago or seventy-five is not going to be determined within these pages; however, we do know that there are all of the years of high school beyond the eighth grade, so what have we established when we say that an eighth grade reading level is quite sufficient to perform functionally in society—or is it the functionary tasks of state we seek to replicate in our mass produced high school graduates? How has graduating from High School become an achievement when in New York City still more than half of its public high school graduates read below the 12th grade. Students are tested only up to the eigth grade; the state and the schools need not be accountable beyond there.

For us to utter with such pride, as we do in New York City about the numbers of high school graduates we have promoted in the last several years, when still nearly half graduate reading below grade, is example of one of our greatest delusions. But then an eighth grade reading level will allow you to handle bureaucratic literacy, the kind needed to manage the many forms and applications you will have to fill out through the course of your life, sometimes in triplicate, or simply a number not repeated but certainly insuring the appropriate redundancy, as if the mother of all bureaucracies in America was the military. A variation on this functional literacy has crept into our colleges, particularly at the community college level, but also in our baccalaureate programs.

I noted this kind of programmatic educating from the allegedly kinder and gentler teachers at a Community College where there was an enforced mediocrity from the governing administration, to the point that if any adjunct lecturer had ever gotten his students to pass the ACT exam at a percentage rate nearly double that of the college average, then he or she came under fire from above, firstly, and most likely, for being too teacher-centered, whatever that is supposed to mean. But those who use this cliche–another of our received ideas about pedagogy that has only allowed us to systematize failure and ensure a pervasive mediocrity in our students ability to read and write critically–are only too quick to oppose anything that will not keep 2 out of every 3 students in remediation failing the exam they need to take the composition courses they most certainly need to graduate, but finish their course of study more effectively. And I can say this without being one of the crazy Republicans–I hate the ping-pong of policy most Americans play . . .

Through this system of failure we achieve a kind of intellectual mendacity that is difficult for any individual teacher to stand up against when the consensus–when the overarching majority of teachers in the Community Colleges all agree to the contrary. My students were passing at a percentage rate of around 70%. The college average was around 34%. There had to be something wrong with the pedagogy, if I could do this in my classes; so, the only response from administration was not reward but vilification. But at the time of my inquest, the Chairperson of the department was someone with a surname made famous or infamous by Sinclair Lewis. . .

And we know what Lewis would have said, or at least we would have known, having once read Lewis as part of the curriculum, but in multi-culti’s programmatic for egalitarian change, the curriculum of reading has been undermined, especially in the ways it can effect the change it wants. By having undermined the Canon we have undermined Canonicity, the very values of literacy drawn hierarchically in a way that would allow us to change more effectively and potently. By having undermined canonicity, we no longer have the ability to read what would be the new Canon or new inclusions to the Canon. We are no longer literate enough.

I understand the idea that the People must be free to go to hell in a handcart, if that is the will of the People; I do not want to live in a society that imagines it can legislate itself away from this; but that does not mean I am going to stand silently by as they do so, and that I am not going to yell into the void, if that’s all I accomplish, in protest.

God bless people like me, I would like to say in the text, but will not, although I do believe this, think this, say this to myself often. Yes, I do wish more people could or would think as I do. I do wish more people were as intelligent as I am.

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